In child custody cases, a geographic restriction limits where a child’s primary residence may be. Such a restriction may be important if, for instance, one parent tries to move away with the child, thereby hindering the other parent’s ability to see that child. A family court order including a geographic restriction will specify the area in which the child’s residence must be (i.e. “in Travis County or any contiguous counties.”). Depending on the facts and circumstances of an individual case, geographic restrictions may be customized to be more geographically limiting or expansive.
In Texas, whether a court can impose a geographic restriction depends on the type of conservator(s) appointed. An individual appointed as sole managing conservator (SMC) has the right to choose the child’s primary residence. When only an SMC is appointed, no other individual has a court-ordered right to possession and a geographic restriction is unnecessary. However, if an SMC and a possessory conservator (PC) are both appointed, the court can impose a geographic restriction. Similarly, if two or more joint managing conservators (JMCs) are appointed, a court will designate one JMC as the conservator with the exclusive right to choose the child’s primary residence and, in such cases, the court will either geographically restrict the location of the child’s primary residence or state that there is no such restriction.
When deciding whether to impose a geographic restriction on a child’s primary residence, the court will often consider the best interests of the child, relocation factors, and public policy. Public policy considerations in Texas include:
If the court has imposed a geographic restriction and circumstances change, the court can modify its order. For example, a court may lift previously imposed geographic restrictions in order to permit a parent to move out of state with a child. However, such modifications depend heavily on the facts of the case, and courts will consider a variety of factors in deciding whether to modify or lift a geographic restriction.
While securing better opportunities for your career and family’s financial well-being are reasonable motives to seek having a geographic restriction modified or lifted, a court may still not be persuaded it is in the child’s best interests for the geographic restriction to be changed or eliminated altogether. If you have questions or concerns about geographic restrictions on your child’s primary residence, contact Kirker | Davis LLP to schedule a meeting with a family law attorney today.