For many Texas co-parents, relocating to another state is their “white whale:” relentlessly sought after, but seldom granted by the family courts. However, one Texas mother recently obtained the (nearly) unobtainable. This mother had spent years dealing with a co-parent, the father, who made even the simplest of child-rearing decisions difficult. The father had cancelled dentist appointments without telling the mother, hid the children from their mother, taught the children how to fight (by telling them to hit the mother), and refused to consent to the children’s enrollment in daycare despite one of the children suffering from speech delays that required professional attention. Nonetheless, this mother persisted.
After divorcing the children’s father, the mother began a long-term relationship with a man who lived in Monroe, Louisiana and with whom she eventually had a child. As time progressed, it became evident that Monroe was the mother’s white whale; she found a medical specialist in town for her children’s special needs, she found an attractive job opportunity, and she discovered that Monroe could offer her children a better education than their current schools. There was just one issue: mother’s divorce decree imposed a geographic restriction on the children’s primary residence, limiting their residence to within Texarkana. Ever the fighter, Mother immediately filed a modification suit requesting that this restriction be lifted.
Unsurprisingly, the father vehemently opposed the mother’s requested modification. According to the father, all of their co-parenting issues could be traced to the mother. Nearly every allegation that the mother threw at the father, the father denied. However, effective cross-examination by mother’s attorney revealed that the father, who worked in the oil and gas industry, spent much of his time out of town. The father’s testimony revealed that, despite exercising a 50/50 possession schedule under the parties’ divorce decree, his mother and grandmother – not he – actually cared for the children during most of his periods of possession. This fact, in particular, convinced the Texas trial court that it was in the children’s best interest to move to Monroe, Louisiana.
On appeal, the Sixth Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision. In a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeals found that a material and substantial change in circumstances had in fact occurred in that Mother had given birth and received a job offer in Monroe, and the father’s job prevented him from personally caring for the children. Even though courts frequently decline to lift geographic restrictions (lest the non-relocating parent’s relationship with their children be irreversibly damaged), the Court of Appeals noted that Texas’s standard possession order ensured that the children would still have frequent and continuing contact with their father.
While results like these are rare, obtaining your “white whale” in family court is not unheard of. The advice of a skilled family law attorney, like that of the experienced team at McClure Law Group, can maximize your chances at obtaining favorable results in court. If you are contemplating modifying a prior custody order, call McClure Law Group at (214) 692-8200 today.