Move-Away Modifications in Houston
People move for various reasons. Many move for occupational reasons. Others relocated to be closer, or further away from, family. Still others upsize or downsize. Altogether, most people move an average of eleven times during their adult lifetimes. Since most of these moves occur before age 40, they often involve children of divorce.
A few divorce decrees severely limit the residential parent’s ability to move the children. But in most cases, these restrictions are general (like Harris County or adjacent counties) or non-existent. Even a move of a few miles could significantly affect the parenting time division in general, and the pickup and dropoff schedule in particular.
No matter how minor the change is, it’s always important to partner with a Galveston divorce lawyer. Side-agreements are unenforceable in family court. So, unless a judge legally modifies the paperwork, one parent could unilaterally go back to the way things were before, and the other parent would have no recourse.
If the parties present an agreed motion to the judge, the judge will probably approve it without holding a hearing. So, it’s usually best to reach an agreement.
Frequently, the agreement involves some give and take. For example, Father might agree to allow Mother to move with the children if Mother pays transportation expenses associated with the children’s visits. A judge would likely order some expense-sharing anyway, and if Mother sweetens the pot, the result could be a substantial savings in legal fees.
If the parents agree on general principles but disagree on the specifics, pre-filing mediation might be a good idea. A third-party mediator, who is usually an unaffiliated Houston family law attorney, can often transfer agreement on broad principles to agreement on specific issues.
Absent agreement, the spouse who wishes to relocate often unilaterally files a motion to modify. Family moves, especially job-based moves, are nearly always in the best interests of the parents. But in a move-away modification, the only question is the best interests of the children. These two things do not necessarily coincide.
For example, Mother might want to move in order to be closer to her job, so she has more time. At best, that move only benefits the children indirectly. To convince a judge that the move benefits the children directly, Mother should focus on other positives for the children. Perhaps the new neighborhood is more secure, has a better school, or has better healthcare facilities.
Special modification rules apply if the order has been changed within the past year. In these situations, move-away modifications are usually impossible, unless the children’s current living environment endangers their emotional or physical health.
Move-away modifications sometimes involve child support modifications as well. However, that’s often not the case in Texas. The Lone Star State is a percentage-of-income state. Generally, unless the obligor’s income changes or a child is emancipated for some reason, the child support obligation will not change.
Team Up with an Experienced Lawyer
Move-away modifications must be in the best interests of the children. For a confidential consultation with an experienced Houston family attorney, contact Lindamood & Robinson, P.C., Attorneys at Law. We routinely handle matters in Galveston County and nearby jurisdictions.