residency restriction in texas

As I am sitting here listening to March Madness I thought of a few items that seem to be reoccurring themes in my family law practice. As a family law attorney you sometimes lose sight of the simple issues that people deal with daily. I will discuss a few of those ideas in the next few posts.

Today I wanted to offer a few tips on residency restrictions in Texas. A residency restriction is a court imposed limitation on where the CHILD can live. You notice that i said child. The Court cannot tell the adults where they can and cannot live, but they can limit the residence of the child. Obviously, if you are the parent with custody of the child and the court limits the residence of the child, then your residence has been effectively limited too. Your option is to stay put or let the child live with the non-custodial parent.

The state legislature has said that they want to promote the relationship between the parent who does not have custody of the child and that child. The way they accomplish this is by assuring that there is frequent contact, i.e. a residency restriction.

The Courts have determined that in Texas a residency restriction can be as large as the state or as small as a neighborhood or school district. The size of the geographical area is within the court’s discretion subject to the facts that they hear at trial. In Collin County (Plano) and Dallas County the courts will typically impose the Dallas and contiguous counties (counties touching Dallas) or the Collin and contiguous counties language by default. That can be changed with the proper facts.

There is one simple way to have a residency restriction put in place if you are not the one with custody of the child, and that is to stay active in the child’s life. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen cases where my client wants a residency restriction but has not been active in the child’s life. I think sometimes it is simply a control issue. If you want a residency restriction in Texas, you need to show that you are active in the child’s life. That can mean simply exercising the visitation that you have been awarded or attending extracurricular activities. Attend some parent-teacher conferences, take the child to the doctor occasionally. You get the point.

If you are active in the child’s life then the court will protect your interests because that is the “policy” of the State of Texas.

The things listed above also apply to parents who want to remove the residency restriction in Texas. If the parent without custody is active in the child’s life, then chances are good that the court will not lift the restriction. However, if there is not active involvement, and the parent wishing to move has a good reason, chances are good that the court will lift that residency restriction.

The moral to this story is simple, stay involved in your child’s life or suffer the consequences when a parent wants to move out of state.

The information contained in this blog is provided for informational (and sometimes entertainment) purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. I can guarantee you that I am not covering every facet of the family code, and there may be hidden gems in the Family Code that could make or break your case based upon your specific fact situation. No recipients of content from this blog, retained client or otherwise, should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in this blog without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice. ALL CASES ARE DIFFERENT BECAUSE OF THE FACTS PARTICULAR TO YOUR CASE; THEREFORE YOU NEED A LAWYER TO DISCUSS THOSE SPECIFIC FACTS. I expressly disclaim all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the content of this blog. Talk to a lawyer first, preferably me, it is that simple!

18 Responses to residency restriction in texas

  1. Michelle May 7, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    I have a residency restriction for Tarrent and surrounding counties. I am recently unemployed due to a reduction in force at my company, not performance related. The type of industry I am in does not have many opportunities for employement in this area. I am the primary financial support for my children, I recieve 400.00 per month in child support for 2 kids, it was 200.00 for the first 3 years and is now 400.00. My ex chooses not to work, rather he makes a small about of cash off a hobby and gets hand-outs from his family. I make/made an OK living, not great but enough for the kids and I to be comfortable. I have 6 weeks of severance left and 2 companies that are interested in me are located about 5 hours away. I cannot leave my children to live with their Dad, they don’t want to. He is a pretty good Dad, he needs always come first and the kids are old enough to realize that so they would rather move and leave their friends and schools. Will it be possible to get the residency restriction lifted? Dad will not agree to release me. Though he does not work he is convinced I can find a job here. I need to know what my options and rights are as the Mother and primary financial supporter of my family.

  2. admin May 7, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    You are going to have to file a petition to modify the order that contains the residency restriction. If your ex will not agree to lift it, you will have no other choice but to file a lawsuit. It is impossible to determine what a Tarrant County judge would do with a Texas residency restriction without knowing all the facts. Your best bet is to find a local attorney, schedule a consultation and lay out all the facts. Then and only then will you be getting the best advise. Good luck to you and I hope everything works out.

  3. CSG June 23, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    Thank you for your blog Chris, it’s very helpful. I wanted to ask a question on this topic; I’ll try to be brief. (I’m the new wife but seem to have a knack with reading the legal wording) We reside in Tarrant county as did my husband and the ex before their divorce. He had the geographical restriction (surrounding counties) added to a modification order finalized in 2006 as she was selling the family home to move. The ex seems to think it no longer applies, perhaps since he worked outside of the country for a while (with the courts blessing, they had to OK his passport renewal and it was to pay off arrearage). His home residence never changed and anyway he’s back at home permanently as of March of this year. The way it reads to me, even if he had moved, it says it’s only lifted if “at the time” she wants to change their primary residence, he did NOT live in Tarrant county. The ex has now sent two certified letters announcing her and their 13 yr old daughters move this summer out of state (her move is not job related, she’s remarrying) When he asked her she said that is what she was told to do (the letter was not from an attorney) and he can challenge it if he wants to. This seems backwards to me, what does he have to challenge? The order is still in place. Sending certified letters to us and the courthouse would not remove it, she’s still in contempt, right? Just like he could not write a letter saying from now on he’s only going to pay a portion of the child support. You get my drift. I did verify the letter is on file at the records office under their case #. But, of course it’s not their job to see if the geographical restriction exists right? Should he respond with a letter of his own pointing out that it’s up to HER to petition the court to have the restriction lifted? Is that enough or should he do nothing and when she moves call the authorities? We are trying to keep this amicable as much as possible to have his daughter hopefully come live with us (which the daughter has wanted to do for some time), but unfortunately this request while first agreed to it has now been taken off the table. Thanks for any advice on the next step.

  4. Chris Schmiedeke June 24, 2010 at 7:29 am #

    You are in a tough position. If you sit by and do nothing, then she will move. If she moves, you stand the chance that the court has some “sympathy” for her in that she gave notice and already moved. While you are right that it is not your duty to deal with the issue, I think you are in a special circumstance because of his work outside the country. She is empowered because of that. I would have to read your order specifically to be able to comment on that.

    I guess you have to decide whether to take a pro-active approach or a reactive approach. I do not think it would be a bad idea to respond to the letter informing her that you do not agree with the move and that there is a residency restriction in place. Send in the same manner and to the same places she did.

    Good luck.

  5. CSG June 24, 2010 at 7:38 am #

    Thank you very much for your response Chris. That was my first reaction, for him to send a letter in the same format CC-ing the same places. I’m much more comfortable with pro-active vs reactive, but without going overboard.

  6. CSG July 18, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    Hi Chris, It’s me again,another question on this topic, we did the actions sent above. The letter was sent certified mail but unfortunately she was not home (or did not open the door) and refused to p/u the letter at the post office. We did copy the court and it is on file now in the clerks office under the cause #. She has a copy of everything we sent from her mother, who we CC’d so it’s a childish game. That said, we were going to send in again, via delivery confirmation only so she doesn’t have to sign anything. Then we will have the tracking report showing it was left at the house. Do you think that is enough to satisfy that all attempts were made to say we object to the move in writing, etc? Or, are there other delivery services available that are affordable?

  7. Chris Schmiedeke July 19, 2010 at 7:28 am #

    I would send it first class mail as well. Can’t refuse that.

  8. ANS March 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    The father of my daughter and I had a weird schedule that was worked around my old work schedule of working nights (joint custody). When she turned 5 and began going to school, due to the odd schedule, he basically had her during the night and I had her during the day, so he would use her against me and allow her to see my basically when he was in a good mood. Otherwise he left her with his mom or girlfriend. I have been her sole provider and the custodial parent so I took him back to court to get this changed. He got standard visitation with me being the custodial parent, which was good and solved the visitation problems but in the end, I once again screwed myself. Getting less in child support (because he didnt have a job), and he also put the residency restriction on me for Dallas and contiguous counties. I didnt really think about it at the time but now I know I screwed myself. Paying thousands in lawyer fees, court cost, social worker costs, mediation etc. A nightmare…..I never realized that I can never achieve my dream of going to Physician Assistant school like i planned without going back to court and re-fighting this loser just because he wants to make my life miserable with control. I can never accept a promotion to another out of state position within my company. In the long run i want to do better to provide for my daughters and pay for their college. I know these reasons currently “are not in the best interest of my child” but in the long run they are. I dont see him trying to put any support out there for her future (college, piano lessons, insurance, better school possibilities) since he is only paying $200 a month is child support. I dont think this is fair. Any suggestions or do I just remain bound by his limitations?

  9. JCD April 26, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    My husband is gone 3-6 months a year (and has been since our daughter’s birth) for his business. He is trying to limit me to the county in which we live in, and maintain it as his primary residence, with a secondary residence in Arkansas. This is solely to keep me in that county. Neither of us have family, friends or jobs in that county, and are currently working an out-of-state contract job. Is it possible for him to limit me to that county in TX since we currently consider it our residence? (I’m trying to compromise on the state of Texas with clauses for out of area contract jobs.) And yes, the daughter goes with me on the assignments, but stays at home with me when dad is on assignments. Thoughts?

  10. Chris Schmiedeke April 29, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    Those types of issues are decided by the judge. Dependent on the facts the Judge may or may not impose a residence restriction.

  11. WCH August 26, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    In the divorce it states that there is no geographical restriction. My ex is now suing me to modify the decree to restrict my children to one county. He is in the military and so is his new wife, so being military assets, they have to move when told to. I have looked for employment here, but have been unsuccessful in finding anything relating to my degree. I have also been offered a position in another state with suitable pay and benefits. To his credit, he has been an active participant in my kids lives aside from when he has been deployed for four and six months at a time. I am just wondering what the odds are of a judge modifying the order to impose a restriction.

  12. Kal November 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    My ex lived in Wise County (Decatur) at the time of the divorce. I negotiated, during mediation, to a restricted area of basically the 114 corridor in trade for him paying for my school & and many other things. None of which he has done. He now lives in Tarrant County. I spent every dime I could muster up to get these restrictions changed to the standard in Tarrant Count, which is Tarrant and surrounding. When we did get to see the associate judge my lied and said my 14 year old wanted to speak to the Judge. He asked her if she wanted to attend a class she was excepted to the following and of course she said yes. (its, a four program-this class). I was then grounded to this school district for 1 year. She is wasting a year of her high school in a class she won’t finish now. Since my school was not paid for I can’t work in the extremely restricted are I am in and cant afford to continue this in the court system. My daughter is upset because she knows i need to work and can’t understand why the judge asked her half ass questions and misinterpreted what she said. Had my ex paid what he agree to I would not need to work and could live here just fine, but those issues are yet in a different court. Only the children issues were moved to tarrant. My ex is involved only as to maintain this power over me. He pays his child support – late – but that’s all he does. everything else he agreed to pay has not done. HELP

  13. anonymous April 3, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    I have a question and maybe you can help me. I am a primary custodian of my 7 year old daughter, and I have a living restriction to contiguous counties and tarrant county from my ex husband. He and I generally get along and he is involved in visitation. My new scenario is that my soon to be new husband has been relocated with a new job and we were wondering about lifting the restriction. Is it possible? My soon to be new husband is also very involved in my daughters life. The new position is about 400 miles away from my ex husband but still in the state. Not sure what my options are at this point. Can you please help me out and point me in the right direction?

  14. anonymous April 3, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    sorry but an addendum to my previous scenario is…..Is there any chance that the judge will lift the living restriction.

  15. Crystal August 23, 2012 at 11:50 am #


    I have a geographical restriction in my decree. As soon as we were finished signing the papers my ex husband moved 99 miles away. Out of the two counties I was restricted to. Now that I am wanting to move he says I can’t without his permission and will take me to court again if I do. KICKER IS! The place i’m wanting to move would actually be closer to him! Did he void the geographic restriction when he moved?

  16. Eugene August 12, 2013 at 9:08 pm #


    I have three children. Long story semi short…Bad luck with my lawyer. My lawyer filed bankruptcy in the middle of my case and left me to defend myself in my divorce suit. In our mediation we agreed upon geographical restrictions on my spouse who has primary residence with my children. I do not have geographical restrictions as agreed and written law in mediation. It was just overlooked. I have never missed visitation and get visitation outside the court ordered agreement. My spouse who has the geographical restriction has moved 400+ miles away in the same state but different city as they once lived. I gave the house to her so that my children would have no life changes. She lives on the border of two states. I work and live in the next state over in a joining county. I have filed a motion to bring them back. My questions are… Has my ex violated the geographical restriction and even though I do not have a geographical restriction, will the court take that into consideration when deciding? I go to court in a couple of days. I just want to get a second option on the matter.

  17. clemmentine October 18, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    Our papers say I am resticted to one county and my current husband just got a promotion at work but the office is 3 hours away. Me and my husband now also have a child together and we only see eachother 4 days a month bc my ex wont lift the residency restrictions. My husband has worked his butt off for this company for 13 years and finally got a tremendous raise and opportunity. So in order for us to be together we need to move 3 hours away but my ex wont lift restriction. I told him I would reduce his child support, pick our child up on insurance and even meet him more than half way and he wont agree. I undestand this is hard for him but we are only 3 hours away. He will automatically get her two extra weeks in the summer on top of the 30 days he has now and he will get her every spring break. So now my family is ripped apart bc of his selfishness. It was his decison to leave when our child was 6 months old so this is what he has to deal with. Its life. Nothing is fair. If he wants to be super dad he can still be super dad. Its up to him. Its hard for me to be understanding of him anymore bc i have always bent over backwards for him and he never gives in to me. So im done…hope hes happy after I take him to court and all the money hes making us waste when he could just suck it up and sign the restriction.!

  18. Brittany December 6, 2016 at 9:21 am #

    I am actually asking a question for my sister. My whole family has relocated. Mom, dad, myself, my husband, and my kids. My sister has yet to relocate with us because of her sons father. They do not have any custody arrangements. He does pay child support, and they both agreed to let him have visitations every other week and every other holiday. This was agreed between themselves not through lawyers or court. He has been threating her about moving to another town which yes it is 450 miles away but she will still be in state and has told him he can continue seeing his son the same time and that nothing would change. Yes I understand that is far but if there is no court order is she allowed to relocate? Our aunt runs a radiology program in the area we will be relocating to and this would help my sister finish her degree. I am a stay at home mom and will be watching my nephew so my sister is able to go to school and work. My nephew is 3. What will happen if she relocates and tells him after she has moved? They have never been married and have lived in different towns for over 2 years now. She wants to be closer to her family who will help support her getting her degree to better her sons life! Her sons father does not have any support system because his family is not supportive of him.

    Thank you

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