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Can You Move Out of State with Your Child after Divorce?

After divorce, many people are eager to start new relationships or embark on an exciting career. Now seems like a great time to try something new, and your journey might take you out of Texas. However, if you have children with your ex, you cannot automatically relocate with your child. Your ex still has important parental rights, which includes the right to see their children as spelled out in the custody agreement.

At Tad Nelson & Associates, our Galveston family law attorneys have helped parents hoping to relocate. Disagreements do not end once a divorce is complete, and this could turn out to be a bitterly contested issue. Call us if you have questions about moving.

Will the Other Parent Agree to the Move?

This is the primary consideration. If your ex is fine with you moving to Louisiana or California or Illinois, then there shouldn’t be much of a problem. It’s only when your ex disagrees with the move that you could potentially have a court fight.

Ask your ex if they are opposed to you moving with the children. If they regularly see your child, then the answer is probably “yes.” But every family is different. Some parents lose touch with their children as the years roll by, or your child might be close to 18 in any event.

Remember that a move can also impact support, such as paying for the child’s transportation to visit the other parent. These expenses usually increase after a move out of state.

Obtaining Court Permission to Move

Your custody agreement probably contains a geographic restriction. In many cases, parents can move anywhere in the same county or possibly to an adjacent county without needing permission from the other parent or a judge. That makes sense, really. The whole goal of a parenting plan is to ensure both parents have access to their children. A short move away doesn’t really interfere with that access.

But a move out of state certainly will alter the other parent’s relationship. For that reason, you will need to convince a judge to modify the custody arrangement. You will need to explain to the court why you want to move and why it benefits your child.

Judges only modify custody if it is in your child’s best interest to do so. That is the same test the judge used when deciding custody in the first place, and it considers many factors:

  • Your child’s age
  • Your child’s relationship with each parent
  • Whether your new living arrangement will benefit the child
  • How the move will alter the other parent’s relationship with the child
  • Whether parents can effectively coparent after the move

A lawyer is an excellent resource when trying to convince a judge that the move will benefit your child.

Your Reason for Moving Matters, Too

This is also a factor a judge will consider. Many parents seek to relocate to:

  • Take a new job
  • Enter a new relationship
  • Enroll in an educational program, such as college
  • Be closer to family
  • Enroll their child in a better school
  • Escape a violent relationship

Judges are less likely to approve relocation if they suspect you are trying to make it harder for the other parent to see their kids. You can bolster your case by finding documentation that supports your motivation for moving. For example, if you are enrolling in a graduate program in Arizona, you need to explain why you can’t pursue the same degree here at one of the many universities in Texas. If you are moving for a new job, you should ideally explain how it will benefit your child (e.g., higher income) and why you can’t find an equivalent job closer to home.

You Could Lose Custody

Parents are always free to move on their own. You only need a court’s permission if you want to take your child with you. If a judge won’t agree, then you face a choice: you can move and leave your child behind or you can stay.

This is a difficult decision. You should discuss it with your Galveston family law attorney. If you choose to move, you should still revise the parenting plan so that you have time with your children. For example, they might visit you in the summer and stay for 3 months while staying in school in Texas with the other parent. We can negotiate any changes to the custody arrangement to preserve your relationship with your children.

Helping Parents Move On after Divorce

Contact our firm for other helpful information about how to legally relocate with your children.