Child custody matters can be complicated and heart wrenching even under the best circumstances. But when a parent is moving out of state, a whole new level of complex issues arise. Texas courts refer to custody as “conservatorship,” which they can award to one parent (sole conservatorship) or both (joint managing conservatorship). Texas custody laws require the court to make conservatorship decisions based on the best interests of the child.

The Primary Managing Conservator’s Responsibilities Regarding Residence

In joint conservatorships, a primary managing conservator is responsible for establishing a primary residence within the geographic boundaries set forth by the court, if one is set. This order is binding and restricts residence within a particular county or set of counties near where the non-custodial parent resides.

If the primary managing conservator wishes to move away from the other parent, assuming the other parent still lives nearby, the court will require evidence demonstrating:

  • An agreement between the two parents, in writing, consenting to the move; or
  • A compelling reason why moving away from the other parent would be in the child’s best interests, and/or
  • How the visiting or noncustodial parent will still be able to maintain a significant role in the child’s life.


If the court allows the primary conservator to move, it will issue her a court order allowing her to move.

If the primary managing conservator plans or tries to move out of state without an agreement or a court order, the other parent has every right to request the court enforce the geographic restrictions from the custody order. This may mean that the primary conservator might then have to face the options of moving back or losing primary conservatorship over the child.

Depending on the circumstances, the primary managing conservator may be free to move without a court order; however, in all circumstances, the primary parent must give the non-custodial parent notice of the intention to move. Note: Be sure to discuss this with a Texas child custody lawyer before taking any action.

The Non-Primary Managing Conservator’s Responsibilities Regarding Residence

For the non-primary managing conservator, or non-custodial parent, residence is a much simpler question. In most cases, because the parent is not planning to take the child with him when he moves, he is free to relocate.

If you are facing a complex custodial situation in Texas, contact the Texas Divorce Lawyer at 214-265-7630 to ensure you know your rights and responsibilities.