What is a residency restriction in a child custody case?

Residency restrictions are extremely common in any order involving child custody in Texas, whether in a divorce decree or in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship.  In Collin County, orders typically say the residence of the child is restricted to Collin County and the contiguous (surrounding) counties.  Similarly, Dallas County orders often restrict the residence of the child to Dallas County and the contiguous counties.  Occasionally, the parties will agree to a more specific residency restriction, such as one or two counties, a particular city, or even a particular school zone.

If one parent has been given the right to designate the primary residence, the residency restriction keeps that parent (and the child) within the boundaries of the order as long as the non-custodial parent is living within that area.  However, if the non-custodial parent moves from within those boundaries, the residency restriction is automatically lifted (under most orders) and the custodial parent is free to move anywhere with the child.

If neither parent has been given the right to designate the primary residence, a residency restriction will keep everyone within the designated boundaries.  In a split custody arrangement, the residency restriction is often more narrowly tailored so that both parents are close to the child’s school.

Residency restrictions are designed to keep both parents actively involved in the child’s life.  Generally, if one parent asks for a residency restriction, the court will grant it unless there is a very compelling reason not to.  Once the parties have a residency restriction, it can be very difficult to have it lifted unless the parties are in agreement.

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