Co-parenting with an ex-spouse can often be difficult -- especially if your ex-spouse relocates to another state after your divorce. Although just about every state has laws in place requiring custodial parents to seek court permission before moving out of immediate driving distance, if there isn't an existing custody order in place, you could find yourself taken by surprise as your child moves hours (or days) away. In other cases, your ex-spouse may simply ignore the court order and relocate without notice. Read on to learn more about your legal rights as a father if your ex-spouse relocates to Texas with your child.
How are father's rights enforced in Texas?
In Texas, as in most other states, there's no presumptive custodial parent -- both parents can provide evidence about their own fitness to parent, their post-divorce living arrangements, school arrangements, and the child's own wishes. In some cases, parents are able to come to an agreement (either own their own or through mediation) when it comes to custody and visitation, but in other situations, the court may need to solicit testimony and then make its own determination as to the best interests of the children.
If a custodial parent relocates to Texas without proper notice (or in a situation in which notice may not be required), you should still be able to enforce your own right to see your child.
What can you do to enforce your own visitation or custody rights?
The path you'll want to take will largely depend on whether a custody or visitation order was ever issued in your divorce case. If you are subject to an existing visitation or custody order, you'll be able to ask either a trial court in your own state or a Texas court to enforce it -- however, because only a single state can exercise jurisdiction over a child custody case at any given time, you'll need to make this choice after taking all relevant factors into account, as it's unlikely you'll be able to easily swap courts (or states) once an enforcement action is commenced.
Once your case has been filed, it will likely be set for a hearing. A guardian ad litem (GAL) or other court-appointed advocate may be assigned to spend some time with your child (as well as you and your ex-spouse) to determine what type of living arrangement would be the most beneficial to your child and to make recommendations accordingly. Although trial courts aren't required to adopt a GAL's recommendation, many courts will offer a great deal of deference to these workers.
Talk with an attorney like Lois Iannone Attorney at Law to explore your rights.