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Co-Parenting Across State Lines

Parent and Child smiling

A parent relocating out of state can potentially wreak havoc on a pre-existing child custody arrangement, but it is possible with proper planning, cooperation, and creative problem solving to ensure your child gets quality time with both parents. Certain steps must be taken to ensure that the original court-ordered custody agreement is not violated.

Can I Move?

In Texas, most custody orders prohibit the primary parent from moving outside of a specific area (usually the child’s current county of residence plus any contiguous counties). Therefore, when parents want to move out of state with their children, they need to get a Court order allowing them to do so; they can’t just pick up and leave unless both parents are in agreement.

If the other parent wants to try to stop you from moving, he or she may file a modification or application for a temporary restraining order which prevents you from moving until a Court can hold a relocation hearing. At the hearing, you’ll have to show compelling reasons for the proposed move, which may include a job relocation (if you can’t find comparable work locally), or a relocation to be closer to family, who will help support and care for the child. If the Court suspects that you’re moving to interfere with the child’s relationship with the other parent, they might not approve the request. It’s important to keep the child’s needs front and center in all discussions, negotiations and hearings before the Court.

What if Both Parties Agree?

If both parties are in agreement, it’s important to work together to develop a parenting and visitation plan that covers all the details. Here are a few key areas to keep in mind:

  • Flexible schedule: Visitation across long distances typically means that parents have to be more accommodating and work with the child’s schedule. It might mean coordinating with school breaks and extended summer stays.
  • Expenses: It’s always better when parents can come to an agreement in advance on costs related to child visits out of state.
  • Travel Logistics: If parents live close to each other then driving might be the best option. If flying is the only way to travel then a handful of other decisions have to be made, such as can the child fly alone or do they need an adult to travel with them.
  • Correspondence: Scheduling regular phone calls or Skype sessions might be a way you and your ex can still find time to visit with your child.

Once you have reached an agreement, both parents must take the plan to the Court. The judge will make the final decision on whether or not the move is in the best interest of the child.

Crafting an out of state visitation schedule can be a tedious and stressful task, especially if you’re coping with a resistant co-parent.  If you find yourself at an impasse, consult an attorney to help you keep the process moving.