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Geographic Restriction

This concept is very important to the non-custodial parent. Let me say that again. This concept is very important to the non-custodial parent.

A geographic restriction is a restriction on where the custodial parent can set up the primary residence for the children. The children live primarily with the custodial parent. A geographic restriction is a restriction placed in the Final Decree (or other court order that deals with the Parent-Child Relationship) that has the effect of law. The geographic restriction will specify where the custodial parent is allowed to establish the primary residence for the children.

This restriction is normally by agreement of the parents or it is imposed by the Court after the issue is brought to the attention of the Court at a hearing.

You need to know that the Court is normally not going to insert any language into a Final Decree on its own that will establish a geographic restriction. What I mean by this is that the Court will not normally raise this issue on its own unless the non-custodial parent raises the issue with the Court. This is just one more reason why it is so important to get an attorney on your side before any Temporary Orders or before the Final Decree gets signed if you are going to be the non-custodial parent.

If the non-custodial parent raises this issue when Temporary Orders or the Final Decree is being drafted, then the Court will almost certainly include a reasonable geographic restriction in the Temporary Orders and/or the Final Decree.

If the parties do not agree (in advance of the Temporary Orders Hearing or the Final Hearing) on a specific geographical restriction such as (1) Williamson County, (2) Williamson County and contiguous counties, (3) within a specific school district or (4) within the city limits of a specific city, then the Court will likely impose a geographical restriction of its own choosing to ensure that the custodial parent cannot move away from the local area and thereby greatly decrease the visitation opportunities of the non-custodial parent.

However, the Court will normally not insert a geographic restriction into the written court order unless this issue is brought to the Court's attention. I have seen many divorce decrees that were drafted without any attorneys involved that did not include a geographic restriction.

If you are the non-custodial parent, not requesting a geographic restriction before the Final Decree is signed by the judge is a huge mistake on your part. Without a geographic restriction, the custodial parent can immediately move to Florida or California or Michigan or even South Africa and pretty much destroy your ability to see your children on a regular basis.

If you live in Williamson County and your former spouse moves to South Africa or Switzerland or even Tennessee with the children, how often are you going to be able to take the time and spend the money to go see them? You can avoid this problem entirely if you talk to an attorney before the Final Decree is signed. It is a whole lot easier to add a geographic restriction before the Final Decree is signed than to try to modify the Final Decree after it gets signed by a judge.

If there is a geographic restriction written into the Final Decree (or other court order), and the custodial parent later ignores it and moves with the children to a location outside the geographic area outlined in the Final Decree, then the non-custodial parent can immediately file a Motion to Enforce the Geographic Restriction with the Court and set it for a hearing and the Court will probably force the custodial parent to move back into the specified area or else surrender primary custody to the non-custodial parent. If the other parent ignores the geographic restriction and moves out of the specified geographic area, you need to bring this to the attention of the Court immediately before the children get entrenched in the new location that violates the geographic restriction.

If you live in Central Texas and you have a question about a geographic restriction or you have other family law questions, please feel free to call Ken Crain at 512-630-3745. I am here to help.