Relocations Part 2: What Courts Consider When Deciding on Moves

In our last blog post, we discussed how courts determine whether parents may move with the child. These types of cases involve parents who want to move away with the children for reassignment or new employment. They also involve parents who want to join a new spouse, or a parent who wants to move back to where most of the parent’s family lives. The problem is that in relocations, this means less visitation for the parent who remains. These cases require the skillful help of experienced family law attorneys such as the ones at Houston’s Boudreaux | Hunter & Associates, L.L.C.

Boudreaux | Hunter & Associates, L.L.C., has grown to be a six-person firm. The two partners, Shannon Boudreaux and Kevin Hunter, have assembled a team to ensure the highest quality of client service. Ms. Boudreaux has limited her practice solely to family law since 2003. By 2014, she had been named to the National Advocates Top 100 Lawyers list. She has a perfect score of “10” from Avvo, an attorney rating service. Mr. Hunter joined the firm after serving his country in the United States Air Force. While attending South Texas College of Law, Mr. Hunter excelled at oral advocacy. He served as an officer on South Texas’ Board of Advocates and participated in moot court tournaments in Georgia and California.

Relocations Require Courts to Consider Many Factors

Because there is so much to consider, relocations require attention to many items of evidence. Once integrated, that evidence provides the best chance for victory in court. In a 2002 case, the Texas Supreme Court laid out eight points for trial courts to consider. We discussed the first three points in our earlier post:

1. The reasons for and against the move, including whether the parents request or oppose it in good faith.

2. The opportunities for health, education and leisure afforded by the move.

3. The degree of economic, emotional and educational enhancement for the custodial parent and child. 

In this post, we cover the remaining five points the trial court should consider.

4. The child’s relationship with extended family and friends, and the effect the move would have on those relationships.

This consideration requires counting the number and evaluating the closeness of the child’s relationships with family and friends where the child lives now and at the location of the child’s proposed move.

5. The extent to which the child’s special needs or talents can be accommodated at the new location.

This consideration applies to two situations: A child who faces challenges such as a learning disability; and a child of extraordinary ability. If there are inadequate facilities at the location of the proposed move to treat a child’s special needs, then perhaps the child should stay where the child is. Also, if the child is, for example, a talented violinist, and there is a well-regarded violin school at the proposed new location, perhaps the child should move.

6. The effect on visitation and communication with the noncustodial parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with the child.

A family law court is charged with placing a child’s best interest first, above any interests of the parents. But one thing bearing on the child’s best interest is the child’s relationship with the child’s parents. The Texas Family Code encourages liberal visitation. If a parent does not exercise it, then there is less of a loss to the child if the child moves away.

7. The possibility of a visitation schedule allowing the continuation of a meaningful relationship between the noncustodial parent and child following the move.

Obviously, if the child moves away, then it is more difficult to have visitation with the parent who remains. The evolution of communication by email, text, Facebook and Zoom calls has attenuated the effects of a move on the child, but still, there is no substitute for physical presence.

8. The ability of the noncustodial parent to relocate.

A simple, yet often difficult solution to relocations is for the noncustodial parent to move to the child’s new location. Often, this is not possible because of employment situations. For example, if a noncustodial parent has held a job for only a short time, or is employed by a large company with the opportunity to transfer to the new location or nearby, then the court may be more likely to allow the move.

Experienced Counsel Needed

As we stated in our prior post, collection and presentation of evidence is key to obtaining or preventing relocations. Should you need the help of an attorney experienced in relocations, you should contact the team at Boudreaux | Hunter & Associates, L.L.C.