Mom and Dad are divorcing or have been divorced and are now sharing joint custody of their children in the same city in Texas. One parent receives a letter from the other parent’s attorney requesting that this parent be allowed to relocate the children to another state so he/she may take a better job position with another company! This is a dilemma no parent ever wants to experience! Child Custody cases involving interstate relocation jurisdiction issues cause much heartache and are costly legal battles.
What can a Parent do to protect themselves from children being relocated away from the non-moving parent to another state without her/his consent? How may this affect the parent’s relationship with the children?
The Texas Family Code 153.002 Best Interest of Child states “The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.”
The Texas Family code does not elaborate on the specific requirement for modification in the residency-restriction context, and there are no specific statutes governing residency restrictions or their removal for purposes of relocation. Texas Courts have no statutory standards to apply to this context.
The Texas Legislature has provided Texas Family Code 153.001, a basic framework on their public policy for all suits affecting the parent-child relationship:
The public policy of this state is to:
Assure the children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child;
Provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child;
Encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.
How does The State of Texas treat an initial Child Custody determination?
Texas Family Code 152.201 of the UCCJEA states, among other things, that a court may rule on custody issues if the Child:
*Has continually lived in that state for 6 months or longer and Texas was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the legal proceeding.
*Was living in the state before being wrongfully abducted elsewhere by a parent seeking custody in another state. One parent continues to live in Texas.
*Has an established relationship with people (family, relatives or teachers), ties, and attachments in the state
*Has been abandoned in an emergency: or is safe in the current state, but could be in danger of neglect or abuse in the home state
Relocation is a child custody situation which will turn on the individual facts of the specific case, so that each case is tried on its own merits.
Most child custody relocation cases tried in Texas follow a predictable course:
Allowing or not allowing the move.
Order of psychological evaluations or social studies of family members
Modification of custody and adjusting of child’s time spent with parents
Adjusting child support
Order of mediation to settle dispute
Allocating transportation costs
Order opposing parties to provide all information on child’s addresses and telephone #
Help to Prevent Your Child’s Relocation in a Texas Court by Preparing Your Case!
Does the intended relocation interfere with the visitation rights of the non- moving parent?
The effect on visitation and communication with the non-moving parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with the child
How will this move affect extended family relationships living in the child’s current location?
Are there bad faith motives evident in the relocating parent?
Can the non-moving parent relocate to be close to the child? If not, what type of separation hardship would the child have?
The relocating parent’s desire to accommodate a new job, spouse, or other criteria above the parent-child relationship. A Parent’s personal desire for move rather than need to move?
Is there a significant degree of economic, emotional or education enhancement for the relocating parent and child in this move?
Any violation of an order or prior notice of the intended move or a temporary restraining order
Are Special Needs/ Talents accommodated for the child in this move?
Fear of child and high cost of travel expenses for non-moving parent or child to visit each other to be able to continue parent- child relationship.
What other Paramount Concerns would affect the child concerning the relocation from the non-moving parent?
At the Nacol Law Firm PC, we represent many parents trying to prevent their child from relocating to another city or state and having to experience “A Long Distance Parental Relationship” brought on by a better job or new life experience of the relocating parent! We work at persuading courts to apply the specific, narrow exceptions to these general rules in order to have child custody cases heard in the most convenient forum in which the most qualifying, honest evidence is available; cases where the child’s home state or other basic questions are clarified, and cases where a parent has the right in close proximity with their child regardless of other less important factors.
Child custody issues can be difficult for the parties involved at any time, but when the custody case crosses a state line, Dallas family law attorney Mark Nacol warns that many more conflicts and problems may arise.
Most states follow a uniform law regarding determination of appropriate state jurisdiction in custody matters known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and related statutes laws which enforce or set procedures regarding proper jurisdiction such as the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act. Texas has adopted these statutes. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act defines which state has or may maintain jurisdiction in a particular case and often mandates that other states recognize decisions handed down by the state determined to have jurisdiction.
The Act states, among other things, that a court may rule on custody issues if the Child:
- Has continually lived in that state for 6 months or longer
- Was living in the state before being wrongfully taken elsewhere by a parent seeking custody in another state
- Has an established relationship with people (family, relatives or teachers), ties, and attachments in the state
- Has been abandoned: or is safe in current state, but could be in danger of neglect or abuse in the home state
There are a number of core factors involved in determining which state is appropriate to initiate or maintain an existing suit. Usually, there are only two states involved, but it is possible to have more than two states involved in cases where there is a frequent moving of the parties and or the children. Generally, any state in which one of the parties and the child has continually resided for a year may establish venue to commence a lawsuit.
The Nacol Law Firm PC represents parents trying to enforce these laws; cases where there is a need to persuade courts to apply the specific, narrow exceptions to these general rules in order to have custody cases heard in the most convenient forum in which the most evidence is available; cases where the child’s home state or other basic questions need to be clarified, and cases where a parent has violated or has been falsely accused of violating these laws.
Going through a divorce can be a difficult time for all family members, including the children. The stress of dealing with a child that has a serious illness or difficulty prior to the initiation of a divorce may accelerate during the divorce process. We call such a child the “Special Needs Child”. This child has apparent or diagnosed emotional/medical problems.
Special Needs children are seriously impacted by the decisions made during a divorce. Many times the child becomes more vulnerable not knowing with is happening but very afraid of losing mom or dad forever and causing additional emotional and behavioral problems at home. It is important for parties to determine how meaningful regular visitation will be accomplished and which parent will have the right to make major decisions on how to address the child’s emotional and medical needs. During a divorce, most parents have difficulty agreeing on issues, especially issues related to the problems associated with a “special needs” child.
I. Child with Emotional Issues:
Children will always experience some level of negative emotions during the divorce process, even in the best circumstances. When a child has a mental illness or emotional problem, how visitation periods are managed, who has the authority to make a decision on medical treatment and therapy and how such decisions will be followed and enforced in each parent’s household will greatly affect the success or failure of the final decree as it pertains to the child. It is very important to have an order that is flexible and meets the child’s changing needs, yet remains enforceable should action need to be taken due to a parent’s failure to meet the needs or comply with the court’s order.
Three of the most reported emotional and behavioral issues involving children are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Behavioral or Conduct Disorders, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), and chemical addictions.
2. Special Medical Needs
When a child has significant medical health problems or disabilities parents may have very different opinions on who should be the decision maker regarding doctors, medications and regimens for a particular situation. This may be compounded by the emotions and breakdown in the marital relationship often caused by the stress and differing opinions of the parents on the care of the child. The Court must help to balance the needs and rights of the parents so that each has a voice in their child’s treatment decisions. It is also important that the parties along with the Court work for a consistent treatment protocol to meet the child’s medical needs and best interests.
The real battleground in custody cases becomes the allocation of rights and duties between the parties. This is exacerbated when the child involved has emotional or medical needs. Other factors that may compound issues are 1) other children involved and 2) whether they also have special needs. Major problems occur when there are differing views between the parents on how to best treat the problem or a lack of consensus among medical and mental health professionals as to the appropriate protocol for treatment and uncertainty among family courts as to which protocol
to “impose” upon the family.
Texas Courts vary greatly on how each allocates rights and duties, even in joint managing conservatorship situations. In the event the parties cannot agree on the allocation of rights pertaining to educational and medical decisions the courts must award custody based on the principle of what is the best interest of the child. The Court will consider many factors in developing a parenting plan including the development status of the child, the child’s temperament, and each child’s specific needs.
To make a meaningful decision on the care of the child, the court will need evidence of the following:
• Which parent is the most involved in the decision making as pertains to the relevant issue?
• What are the competing theories of how to best treat the child?
• Current opinions from the child’s physician and /or therapist.
• What is the generally accepted treatment for the specific condition?
• What is the likelihood of each parent following the protocol selected by the court?
• How successful has the treatment been in the past?
• What are the attitudes of the parents in relation to considering alternative methods if the current situation doesn’t work?
• Which parent has shown a proven effort at recognizing the child’s needs and working to address them?
The selection of a reputable expert in the particular field in which the child is affected is paramount to a true evaluation of the situation. Not all doctors and therapists are created equal and the expert must be a specialist in working with the child’s specific problem.
After the divorce is concluded, raising a special needs child requires a high degree of collaboration between both parents. This child feels very afraid and doesn’t have to be put in the middle of a parental alienation feud which could cause long term mental and physical scarring for both the child and the parents. Parents, think about your child! Your child didn’t ask for a divorce but they will have to live with the consequences, good or bad, that your decisions leave them!