One of the most common issues that arise in divorce and custody matters is the residency restriction that Courts in Texas impose.
A residency restriction is a court imposed limitation on where the CHILD can live. You notice that I said child. The Court cannot tell the adults where they can and cannot live, but they can limit the residence of the child. Obviously, if you are the parent with custody of the child, and the court limits the residence of the child, then your residence has been effectively limited too. Your option is to stay put or let the child live with the non-custodial parent and move.
The state legislature has said that they want to promote the relationship between non-custodial parents and their children. The way they accomplish this is by assuring that there is frequent contact between the non-custodial parent and the child, i.e. a residency restriction. A residency restriction is applied in almost all divorce and custody cases.
The Courts have determined that in Texas a residency restriction can be as large as the state or as small as a neighborhood or school district. The size of the geographical area is within the court’s discretion subject to the facts that they hear at trial. Typically, however, the courts will impose restrictions to specific counties. For instance in Collin and Dallas County the courts will typically impose the Dallas and contiguous counties (counties touching Dallas) or the Collin and contiguous counties language by default. That can be changed with the proper facts, but in general that is what you will see.
There is one simple way to have a residency restriction put in place, and maintained, if you are the non-custodial parent, and that is to stay active in the child’s life. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen cases where a client wants a residency restriction but has not been active in the child’s life. I think sometimes it is simply a control issue. If you want a residency restriction in Texas, you need to show that you are active in the child’s life. That can mean simply exercising the visitation that you have been awarded and attending extracurricular activities. Attend some parent-teacher conferences, take the child to the doctor occasionally. You get the point. Be involved.
If you are active in the child’s life then the court will protect your interests because that is the “policy” of the State of Texas, meaning that the State of Texas wants to protect your rights to see your child on a regular basis.
The things listed above also apply to parents who want to remove the residency restriction in Texas. If the parent without custody is active in the child’s life, then chances are good that the court will not lift the restriction. However, if there is not active involvement, and the parent wishing to move has a good reason, chances are good that the court will lift that residency restriction.
The moral to this story is simple, stay involved in your child’s life or suffer the consequences when a parent wants to move out of state.