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Geographic Restrictions: You Can't Make Me Live Here, This is America!

Posted by James Victor Esh | Dec 03, 2023

Geographic Restrictions and Custody Orders

Certainly, understanding the significance of geographic restrictions within custody orders is crucial in family law. These restrictions, often integrated into custody agreements, play a pivotal role in shaping the lives of families post-divorce or separation. 

A "geographic restriction" is a restriction placed in a Custody Orders which prevents a child from being permanently relocated (moved) from one location.  For example, your Custody Orders may prevent you from moving the child out of Nueces and contiguous counties. But wait!!!  In the US I have a right to be free and live where I want, you say.  You are generally right.  However, note the orders do not prevent YOU from moving out of a specific region.  The Custody Orders prevent you moving your child(ren) out of a specific region.  Under the current statutes and case law, there is no problem with the Court imposing such restrictions. 

Typically, in most jurisdictions in Texas, if a party asks for a geographic restriction, the Court will grant such restriction unless there is a good reason not to impose such restriction.  

As a Texas family law attorney, navigating the complexities of custody agreements, it's imperative to shed light on the essence of geographic restrictions. These limitations define where the custodial parent can live with the child, preserving stability and consistency in the child's life.

Geographic restrictions serve multifaceted purposes, primarily centering around the child's best interests. They aim to ensure proximity between both parents, fostering a healthy co-parenting environment. By specifying geographical boundaries, these restrictions alleviate potential disruptions to the child's routine, education, and relationships.

In the state of Texas, such restrictions demand careful consideration and are usually detailed within the custody arrangement. While they provide a framework for stability, modifications can be pursued under certain circumstances, such as job relocation or with compelling reasons that prioritize the child's welfare.  It should be noted, however, if a geographic restriction has been put in place it is not automatically going to be lifted just because you ask for it to be modified. 

The other parent has a say and can object to the lifting of the restriction.  The burden to prove to the Court to lift the restriction is on the party asking for it to be lifted.  It should also be noted that just because you received an amazing raise and new job opportunity that will make life easier for you and your children, this is alone is not likely going to be enough to convince a Court to lift the geographic restriction if the other parent objects.  It is important to speak with an attorney experienced in family law and with your local Courts to help advise you on your options -- whether you are seeking to lift the geographic restriction or keep it in place.  

Additionally, if you move the child(ren) without Court permission you can be held in contempt of court and the Court may order the children to be returned to the geographic restricted area and might even considering changing 'primary' custody in certain circumstances.  

Balancing the rights of both parents and the well-being of the child is pivotal. It's vital for attorneys to collaboratively work with their clients to strategize and negotiate these terms, fostering agreements that prioritize the child's upbringing.

Ultimately, geographic restrictions within custody orders epitomize the delicate balance between the child's stability and the parental rights, requiring legal expertise, empathy, and a focus on the child's welfare above all else.

About the Author

James Victor Esh

Victor understands the struggles of families.  It is at the core of how he practices.  When a family must be reshaped, he understands the emotional struggle this causes.  He seeks to resolve conflicts in the most efficient way by reaching agreements where they can be made.  When an agreement can'...

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