Relocate a child out of state after a divorce?
Recently on our divorce forum a dad asked, “My wife and I are getting a divorce. We both live in Texas. My wife wants to relocate with my son out of state. I have had a very good relationship with my son his entire life. I do not think it is fair for her to relocate out of state and jeopardize our relationship. Do I have any say in where my wife lives?”
Divorce law in Texas and parental rights
State laws vary, and if you do not live in Texas, you need to talk to a divorce lawyer familiar with the laws in your state. With that said, because you mentioned you lived in Texas, we will specifically discuss how divorce laws work in the State of Texas.
The good news is courts now generally recognize the value of both parents in the parenting process. With that in mind, barring any history of abuse, neglect, parental misconduct or domestic violence, the state will generally award joint managing conservatorship to parents. This is referred to as joint legal custody status in other states, but regardless of the title, this arrangement allows both parents to have equal say in important life decisions for the child, including where the child will reside.
If you and your wife are able, you will be given the first chance to develop a joint custody plan which works for the two of you. If you are unable, however, the state will intervene and create their own plan which they believe is in the best interest of your child.
The court has a variety of factors they will consider in making their decision (i.e., whether you and your wife were both involved in caring for your child prior to the divorce, your child’s preferences, and your child’s physical, psychological, and emotional needs).
Where can your child live?
As you mentioned, your primary concern is that your ex-wife doesn’t hijack your son and relocate him hundreds of miles away from you, eliminating your ability to see your son. On this front, there is good news.
The court should specify within the agreed-upon joint managing conservatorship arrangement that neither parent can relocate outside of a particular geographical area, thus allowing for a shared possession schedule which is not too difficult for either parent to follow.
What if my wife wants to relocate with my child?
If the court has instituted a joint managing conservatorship arrangement which prohibits your wife from moving out of state, she cannot legally relocate your child out of state. If she decides she wants to relocate she will have to get a court.
If you have an arrangement which does not specifically make any restrictions on her movements you will have to file a temporary restraining order if she does decide to move. After this order has been filed there will be a hearing where you can present your case to the court and attempt to convince the court why your child should not be moved.
It will be up to your wife to offer compelling evidence why the move would be in the best interest of the child.
The State of Texas recognizes that children generally benefit from parental involvement from both parents. This assumption will work to your benefit to keep your son in the state following a divorce.