Is It Possible To Have Geographic Restrictions Modified?
Yes, it is possible to have geographic restrictions modified. It is possible, but there have to be very compelling reasons to do so. In fact, that is one of the hardest issues to accomplish as a practitioner in the area of family law. The courts are very reluctant to lift geographic restrictions unless there is very compelling evidence that it is necessary and in the best interests of the children otherwise the courts more often than not are going to leave the geographic restrictions in place. If you agree to a geographic restriction in your divorce or in your initial suit affecting the parent-child relationship, you need to be pretty certain that you are going to reside in that area at least through the children’s childhood.
Are Visitation And Custody Handled Differently For Children Under The Age Of Three?
Yes, visitation and custody are different for children under the age of three. The legislature in their infinite wisdom has coded in the statutes, that when you are dealing with a child or children under three years old, that there is a presumption that the standard visitation order will not apply to a child under three. What does that look like in actual practice? It really varies in the sense that it is one of these case by case situations where the judge looks at the facts and they will look at the position of the parties and the proximity in which the parties reside from one another.
From those details they will then craft an order and that order is then supposed to provide for more frequent access to the possessory parent, but for shorter periods of time. I have seen this take many different shapes and forms, so it is hard to say, “It’s going to be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.” It varies on a case by case basis, but I can tell you that the framework in which the court operates is they want to create more frequent visits for the possessory parent.
At What Age Can A Child Decide Who He Or She Wants To Live With?
A child can decide whom they want to live with at the threshold of about eleven years of age. Once the child hits eleven, then the child can at that point, express their desires as to whom they can reside with. However, the statute modified that particular decision here in Texas some years ago where it used to be that once a child reached that age they could designate that was essentially it. They just decided who they wanted to reside with, and you could even file a statement with the court designating their preference and then the court would theoretically be compelled to make the change. However, since the change in legislature has been made, it is not so cut and dry anymore. Although the child is still entitled to make a preference and they can even actually make a preference before eleven, but eleven is still the bright line age in which they are deemed to be mature enough to make these kinds of choices.
That is only one piece of information that the court can consider. They still need to make a determination based on all the evidence and they still need to make a determination that the child’s expressed preference is in their best interest. So, it is a little more delicate than it used to be. Once the child turns eleven, they used to file these designations and then tried to change them immediately and the legislature determined that this was not a good practice for anyone let alone the courts. It softened their approach on this to allow the court more discretion when making these types of changes concerning children at such an impressionable age.
What Are The Appropriate Circumstances To Get Involved In A Custody Battle?
The obvious answer to get involved in a custody battle is whenever drugs or alcohol are involved with either parent or whenever you may suspect there may be evidence of abuse or neglect of the children. Other scenarios that I see is the primary parent may be involved in either multiple dating relationships or God forbid, in an abusive dating relationship where that parent is being either physically or psychologically abused and the children may be exposed to this lifestyle. Those are all obvious situations that would justify or substantiate a modification.
Some of the other things that I see, although one parent is the primary parent and under the order has the right to designate the residence, in actual practice, it is the possessory parent who is doing all of the caring for the child most of the time and either living or residing with that parent and the other parent only sees the child sporadically. That is a common scenario that I hear about. Someone could say that it is the possessory parent that has been taking care of the child for some time.
In that scenario, you theoretically want that situation to be the status quo for at least six months. But all of those are situations where those would clearly justify filing for a modification and looking to changing the orders.
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