Geographic Restrictions: Modifying, Changing, or Adding on Temporary Orders


Many parents or guardians, after finishing a divorce or a suit involving children, would like to modify the order when circumstances change for the family. These types of final orders out of Texas almost always include a geographic restriction that restricts the primary address of the children. When modification is possible, typically one year after an order has been rendered, some parents and guardians desire to change or lift the geographic restrictions within that order very quickly. For those orders with no geographic restriction, some parents or guardians even want to add one in very quickly upon learning of the other guardian or parent’s impending move.


That is an understandable request. However, as with most things in the legal field, it is a little more complicated than simply requesting the ability to move outside the designated geographic area and expecting the judge to be understanding of a new job offer, a sick family member, a new marriage, or any other circumstances that may affect the parent. This is actually one of the toughest case types in all of family law. The state of Texas has, as its first policy with respect to family law, a public policy that children should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents, and moving far away would make it very difficult to achieve that policy goal.


Initially, in a suit for modification, a parent may request a change, creation, or dissolution of geographic restrictions in temporary orders. This is often a hang up, as the courts require certain circumstances to allow for such a speedy remedy.


The requirements as stated by law for modification of a prior order in temporary orders for a change in geographic restrictions typically require a couple of things: 1) the change in geographic restrictions is in the best interest of the child; and 2) the child is presently exposed to circumstances that would significantly impair the child’s physical health or the child’s emotional development.


Both of those requirements must be met for there to be a change in geographic restrictions for a child on temporary orders. While there are other avenues that can be taken, these are by far the most common allowed by law.


When properly pleaded, this type of motion to modify an order on temporary orders will have attached an affidavit stating the reasons why the change is in the best interest of the child and how the child’s current circumstances are significantly impairing the child’s physical health or emotional development. The range of what constitutes the requirements vary. In the extreme, the child may be exposed to real and impending danger of abuse, drug use, neglect, and so forth. In the less extreme category, the child may have severe allergies to cedar that necessitate moving out of the Hill Country or Travis County quickly.


There is no fast and hard rule as to what constitutes an impairment of the child’s physical health or emotional development. However, in every case of modification of geographic restrictions in temporary orders, the argument must be made that whatever the child’s experiencing qualifies as a significant impairment of physical health or emotional development. Typically, a change in circumstances of the parent will not be sufficient alone on a temporary basis without other facts. And, above all, the change must be in the best interest of the child.


You’re going to need an attorney, one whose practice primarily focuses on family law, to help you navigate through this difficult legal request. This is a case type that our firm handles regularly. We both defend against and request these types of geographic changes on a regular basis for our clients. Please contact our office online or call 512-944-3329 for a free twenty minute consult to discuss your options.