The correct answer for your individual circumstances depends on several factors, however, the short answer to this question is almost always no. If your child custody agreement specifically allows you to move your children out of state without prior consent, then the “consent’ has actually already been given by the terms of the agreement. Otherwise, the provisions of the agreement apply, and any attempt to move your children without informing your ex-spouse will most likely require you to immediately bring your children back to Texas and can land you in serious trouble, including fines and even jail time and loss of custody. The ultimate answer to your situation can be found in Texas Child Custody Laws, which focus primarily on the best interests of the child. As in most legal matters, it is usually wise to consult a Texas child custody attorney specifically experienced in this area of law before taking any drastic action you could later regret.
What is the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act?
In the course of your divorce, your children’s home state was most likely established by the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which is a law mutually adopted by Texas and all other U.S. states and territories, with the exceptions of the Commonwealths of Massachusetts and Puerto Rico. The Act states your children’s’ home state is considered to be Texas if they have resided here for the last six months prior to the start of any divorce or child custody proceedings. This determination also ensures that the State of Texas has jurisdiction over issues affecting your children’s custody. Every divorce action in Texas involving children includes a separate Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship, or SAPCR. Since your children’s custody was determined by a Texas court previously, any changes, such a relocation out of state, must be authorized by a similar court action.
Can I Get Permission from the Courts to Move My Children Out of State?
To try to obtain permission to relocate your children out of state, you most likely will need to file a petition (or motion) with the court, to modify the SAPCR agreement, usually in the county that has been exercising jurisdiction over your child. Your ex-spouse will have the opportunity to consent or contest your request, and again the judge will be giving paramount consideration to the best interests of your children. There are some circumstances that may be in your favor in requesting to relocate you and your children out of the state.
Obviously, if there are any issues of child abuse, neglect or criminal matters, the court will view these situations seriously, and can issue an Emergency Order, again under the principle of what is in the best interest of the children. If you are wanting to move to be closer to family or other support systems or to obtain employment that results in more money to support the children, then these are valid reasons that will likely be considered. This may be especially true if there have been instances of non-payment of child support, however, this will be a matter for the court to consider and decide. Texas case law shows that judges exercise wide latitude in making their decisions in these situations.
One Texas Supreme Court case decided that the quality of life of the parent with custody was in the best interests of her children and approved a relocation. In another case, a Texas judge ruled against a relocation, partly based on the demonstrated strong relationship of the children with their non-custodian parent. Still, in a third case a judge ruled that preventing relocations was simply not practical.
Given the strong spirit and intent of Texas law on this subject, seek the court’s permission before you act. But more importantly it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Texas child custody attorney before you pick-up and move out of state without the permission of the child’s other parent. It is unlikely that a Texas court will grant you permission, but an experienced child custody attorney can look at your case and provide you the legal guidance that you will need.
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