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Lifting a Geographic Restriction

Geographic Restriction. Domicile Restriction. Residency Restriction. It's all the same thing. 


If you have one and want to lift it, but can't get agreement from the other parent, then you have a Relocation case.


Relocation cases are difficult. One of the main reasons is that it is hard to find a compromise. If mom and dad get a Texas divorce, and mom wants to move with the children to New York, the compromise of mom moving to Tennessee is not likely to make anyone happy. Since it’s hard to settle a relocation case, they often end up going to trial – and that can be expensive and time-consuming.


Relocation is really the other side of the geographic restriction coin. If the prior decree or order does not have a geographic restriction (also known as a residency restriction or domicile restriction), then theoretically there is no relocation case or battle that needs to be fought.


When there is a geographic restriction, any attempt by the primary parent to move beyond the restricted area, can lead to a relocation case. Relocation cases can be dealing with moves across town or moves out of State or out of the Country.


If tried to the judge alone (a “bench trial”), the issue of relocation is completely within the discretion of the court. The parties in a relocation case have a choice, however, because the issue can be tried to a jury. In fact, per the Texas Family Code, the judge cannot alter the jury’s finding on the issue.


So whether to a judge or jury, the question is: What kind of evidence will you need to win your side of the argument?


The Supreme Court of Texas in the case of Lenz v. Lenz listed a number of factors for courts to consider when making the determination of whether a request for relocation should be granted. These so-called Lenz Factors include the following:


  1. The reasons for and against the move;

  2. A comparison of education, health, and leisure opportunities;

  3. Whether any special needs or talents of the children can be accommodated;

  4. The effect on extended family relationships;

  5. The effect on visitation and communication with the noncustodial parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with a child; and

  6. Whether the noncustodial parent has the ability to relocate.


When considering whether to file a relocation case or how to defend one, it is critical to determine and gather all the evidence that you can on all of the Lenz Factors.

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