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:
The reasons for and against the move;
A comparison of education, health, and leisure opportunities;
Whether any special needs or talents of the children can be accommodated;
The effect on extended family relationships;
The effect on visitation and communication with the noncustodial parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with a child; and
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.
If I get remarried, does it lift a geographic restriction? Does remarriage lift or remove a geographic restriction automatically?
Remarriage will not automatically lift a geographic restriction, unless that contingency was explicitly written into the prior decree or order -- which would be highly unusual. A remarriage will, however, play into the factors listed above. So, a remarriage is something to be considered when strategizing for a relocation case.
How do I get rid of a geographic restriction?
You will need a new court order to get rid of it officially. Theoretically, it would be possible to get an agreement that never gets formalized in court, but doing so could be very risky, because the other party may later deny it, and when faced with their apparent agreement, claim that the only agreed under duress or that they were somehow defrauded.
How can I change my geographic restriction in Texas?
A relocation case is the method used. It is a type of Child Custody Modification case.
How long does it take to get a geographic restriction lifted in court?
Beal Law Firm handled a case that made it from filing to trial within a month, but that is highly unusual. The time from filing until trial -- if a trial is needed -- could be a matter of weeks or months. Docketing (scheduling matters) depends in large part on the court that the case is in.
Other Resources and Posts that you may find helpful:
Homeschool and Private School in Texas: The Right to make educational decisions before and after a Texas Custody Case or Divorce
Parental Alienation in Texas - What is it?
Best Interest of the Child: How Courts Decide Custody Cases
Mediation: How does that work?
Custody: Being Named Primary