By: Leslie Barrows
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What are geographic restriction orders affecting children in Texas family law cases?
One of the more contentious issues in Texas family law cases is where a child may travel and reside. Before the court makes any order regarding the child, both parents have equal right to take a child wherever they want. After the court orders a limitation on travel and a restriction on where the child may live and go to school, there are consequences for violating the order of the court. It is important and often standard to seek a temporary order setting geographic restrictions, early in the family law matter, to prevent the other parent from removing a child from the current area of residence or outside the State of Texas.
Initial temporary and standing court orders are important to the travel and residential restrictions for children in family law cases, especially when one parent is a flight risk.
In some cases, one of the parents wants to move to another part of the state or out-of-state, near friends or family, because of a divorce. If that parent takes their child to another place before there is a court order regarding the child, it may be more difficult to compel the return of the child. If the petition for divorce or custody has not been filed yet, the parent moving to a new area or out-of-state, if in the new location long enough, could file a family law action in their new location and ask that court to take jurisdiction over the child and the underlying case. If one parent suspects the other might flee the area and take the child, it is important to act quickly in filing the case and seeking an court order establishing geographic restrictions.
A parent is free to travel and move where they like, but the child is not, because the court’s geographic restriction orders specifically state where the child may travel, and where they may reside, within an often set number of miles from a certain location, or within the limits of a county. During the divorce the court usually restricts a child’s travel to the State of Texas, unless the parents otherwise agree; often called standing orders. A standing order may also require the parent with visitation rights, to share phone numbers, locations and the whereabouts of the child at certain times.
Modifying and enforcing the geographic restrictions in the order of the court
The court’s order will state which parent has the right to determine where the child may travel and where they will reside. Within the geographic restrictions, the parent with rights to determine residence may move wherever they want. If however, that parent demonstrates a significant reason to move beyond the geographic restrictions, they may file a motion with the court to modify the geographic restrictions. In some cases, there are no geographic restrictions and others where there are general or very specific limitations.
If either parent does not obey the limits of a geographic restriction, there may be a court action to find the offending parent in contempt of court, to compel a parent to return the child, and a modification to the court’s order with greater restrictions or requiring supervised visitation. Even if the primary parent with right to chose residence, moves beyond the geographic restrictions, they may be forced to move back or risk losing the right to have the child live with them. At all times, the courts focus on the best interests of a child and the security of their development with family and their community.
The Barrows Firm is a resource for parents seeking information, advice and representation in protecting the best interests of their children in divorce and family law cases, where there may be issues involving the travel and residence of a child.
If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.
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