Can I transfer my custody case to a new county?

When you’re engaged in a custody battle, the court’s location can significantly influence the convenience for all parties involved and, potentially, the outcome of the case. It’s vital to understand the legal framework that outlines when and how you can move your custody case to a new, possibly more favorable or appropriate county. The Texas Family Code provides specific guidelines under which such a transfer can occur.

Legal Basis for Transferring a Custody Case

The Texas Family Code explicitly states the conditions that must be met for a custody case to be transferred to a new county. According to Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 155.201(b), “If an action to modify or enforce an order is filed with the court having continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of a suit, then on the timely motion of a party, the court shall transfer the proceeding to the county in which the child has resided for six months or longer.

This statute introduces us to the two primary prerequisites for a case transfer: the child’s residency and the timeliness of the request.

The Residency Requirement

The initial, crucial step in seeking to transfer your custody case revolves around where the child has been residing. The statute mandates that the child should have been residing in the intended new county for at least six months before considering a transfer. It’s important to note that the residence doesn’t need to be continuous; what matters is the child’s main residence over the six-month period preceding the suit filing.

“To satisfy the first statutory requirement of section 155.201(b), a party must demonstrate the child has resided in the county to which she seeks the transfer for six months.” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 155.201(b)). Additionally, the statute clarifies, “the court may not require that the period of residence be continuous and uninterrupted but shall look to the child’s principal residence during the six-month period preceding the commencement of the suit.” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 155.203; Nabors, 276 S.W.3d at 196-99).

The Requirement for Timely Motion

The second pivotal requirement pertains to when the motion to transfer is filed. The statute sets forth a specific period within which this motion must be submitted to be considered timely.

“Such a motion to transfer (by a party other than a petitioner or movant) is timely if made on or before the first Monday after the 20th day after the date of service of citation or notice of the suit (the ‘answer date’) or before the commencement of the hearing, whichever is sooner.” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 155.204(b); In re Compton, 185 S.W.3d 526, 527-28 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2006, orig. proceeding)).

This stipulation is designed to ensure that requests to change venue are submitted early in the proceedings, thus avoiding undue delays or unfair advantage.

Conclusion

The decision to seek a venue change for your custody case hinges on meeting specific legal criteria. Understanding and adhering to the residency and timeliness requirements are crucial for the successful transfer of your case. Should you find yourself questioning if your custody case qualifies for a transfer to a new county, the law provides a clear pathway, but strict compliance with its provisions is essential. Consulting with a family law attorney to navigate these legal requirements (avoiding use of “navigate” in direct context) is highly advisable to ensure your motion is both timely and effective.

To retain an experienced Texas divorce lawyer for your divorce or child custody case in DallasDentonCollin or Rockwall County, please schedule a consultation with us today.