Monday, September 24, 2007

How to Settle Relocation/Geographic Restrictions Issues

One of the most difficult and emotional issues that arises in family law cases is relocation, or moving the children to another area. When both parents have been active and have close relationships with the children, this becomes a very difficult topic to discuss, much less reach an agreement on. Many divorce decrees provide a geographic restriction on the parent who has primary possession of the children. The most common language used in Tarrant County is to restrict the children's residence to Tarrant and contiguous counties (ones that physically touch Tarrant County).

When one parent has not been very involved in spending time with the children, it is easier for the other parent to move the children somewhere else. Sometimes, the non-custodial parent doesn't object. Other times, the non-custodial parent may object, but the court will permit the move with the thought that there is not much relationship to be harmed by the move.

The difficult case is where both parents are good and actively involved parents, and the primary custodial parent has a good reason to be moving, such as a mandatory job transfer. That is the type of case that can probably be better handled by Collaborative Law.

The case could be approached as follows:

1. The first step is to determine the underlying goals, needs and interests of the parties. The goals might include such things as providing quality education, a safe and comfortable home, having extended family around (with various benefits), and maintaining an excellent, active relationship with both parents. In a case like this, it would be helpful to have a neutral child specialist to work with both parties, beginning with developing the goals.

2. The second step is to gather the facts. Is the move voluntary or involuntary? Are there any benefits or any disadvantages to the children? A move could be based on any of the following situations: career advancement, required transfer, voluntary move, a move to meet a child's needs, or a move to take advantage of special opportunities elsewhere, among other reasons. Other factors to be considered could include, among other things, the distance of the move, transportation possibilities, the ages of the children, transportation costs, and how much time or what type of time each parent had been spending with the children.

3. The third step is to generate options. Again, a child specialist could be invaluable here. Among the options for many cases would be: move, don't move, one or both parents take a new job, different transportation methods, different ways of sharing or offsetting the costs, both could move, change custody, change the allocation of time with the children, permit extra time, try
video conferencing over the internet with the children, arrange frequent phone calls or emailing, or change the holiday schedules, among other things.

4. The fourth step is to evaluate the options and negotiate to an agreement. In the course of evaluating the various ideas, new ideas or plans could emerge. The child specialist can be very helpful in this phase as well.

Relocation can be a very emotional topic for involved parents. Collaborative Law provides the structure, assistance and opportunities to work through the difficult issues in a civilized manner that can lead to an acceptable solution that allows the parents to remain on good terms and assures that the children's best interests are protected.


bestonline323 said...

i relocated alot as a child since my parents were separated my father used to move around alot probably every year. Now im thankful for it but when i was younger it was a hassle for me emotionally.

This is a wonderful article.
Relocation Sugar Land

Unknown said...

I was wondering if you can still put a geographical ristriction on someone if they are $7000.00 dollars behind in child support. Does the party behind in child support still have the right of the geographical restriction he placed on the other party?


Dick Price said...

We can't discuss specific cases here and I can't give legal advice. There are a number of issues that can be considered by a court, depending on the state law and local practice. You should consult with a local attorney to get advice.

Heather said...

I understand you can not respond to a specific case but could you give general advice or answer to a general question? If one parent has a geographic restriction and has possession of the child and gets a job offer or has to move outside of the restriction and only has a week's notice, which is not enough time to submit a modification request, and the other parent is in full agreement could a signed notarized letter be used until a modification has been filed?

Dick Price said...

Getting an agreement is a huge step. If your case is in Texas, you may be able to get an order quickly approved and filed. You need to consult with an attorney. The attorney can advise you as to what the local judge will permit. I can't tell you what will be sufficient. You need to work with a local attorney who knows what the judge would accept.

lilly said...

I have primary custody of our child and the father has been given extended visitation but travels so often that he is almost never in town. I have kept a calendar of the father's travel schedule (on advice from my lawyer) and it shows that his father only saw our son for 2 days in November, 3 days in December and is traveling from Dec 10 to January 7 (he has a girlfriend and business in Mexico). He was supposed to have our son for the first part of Christmas vacation and will not be doing so. Per his email to me, his travel schedule will increase in 2015. I would like to relocate to the Boston, Ma area to be closer to my brother and his family so that our son can grow up with his cousins (which he is very close to). His father works from home and has the ability to relate anywhere. Would I have a good chance of getting the restriction lifted?
Thank you for any advice you can offer.

Anonymous said...

What are the chances of getting my geographical limitations removed? Its only a little over an hour from the area and I am getting a different job and married? I have been told that it should be no problem considering my job would be in this area.... there father works off anyways we are suppose to share joint custody but with his job being in the oil field I end of having them about 3 months longer than he does?

Dick Price said...

I can't really respond to your question, other than to suggest that you contact a local experienced family lawyer. The local lawyer would probably have an idea of what your judge or judges will consider. On the other hand, you could try the Collaborative process first. You might be able to reach an agreement to move without having to take a chance on what a judge might decide.