Geographic Restriction: Limiting the Child’s Residence in Divorce Cases

Courts routinely impose a geographic restriction at the temporary orders hearing  in divorce cases that involve minor children.  The restriction normally limits the child’s residence to the current county of residence plus contiguous counties (“contiguous” means the surrounding counties whose borders touch the current county of residence).  So, for example, a geographic restriction that limits the child residence to “Bexar and contiguous counties” means the custodial parent (and child) could live anywhere in Bexar, Medina, Bandera, Kendall, Comal, Guadalupe, Wilson or Atascosa counties.  The purpose is twofold: (1) to keep the custodial parent and children in the local area until the divorce is finished; and, (2) to facilitate the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights. 

Whether a geographic restriction will also be included in the final decree of divorce is a separate matter.  Sometimes it is included.  Other times it isn’t.  For final orders, one factor courts consider is the parents’ near-term and long-term employment prospects.  If a credible argument can be made that the custodial parent needs to be able to move anywhere in Texas or some other State, then courts frequently remove the geographic restriction.  The need to be able to change residence without restriction is a key factor in military divorces and Federal civil service divorces.

It’s important to emphasize that a geographic restriction only affects the “right to change permanent residence” and not the “right to travel.”  So, if either parent wants to take the children out of Texas to visit the grandparents or go on vacation, that’s okay.  Traveling does not violate a geographic restriction.

For questions about geographic restrictions and other issues in divorce, speak with a qualified divorce attorney.

Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and the principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm.  The Cramp Law Firm provides a spectrum of family-related legal services in the greater San Antonio Region.