Effective September 1, 2009, an agreed parenting plan may either designate the conservator who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child  or provide that the child’s primary residence is required to be within a specified geographic area.  The Texas Legislature passes HB 1012 amending Texas Family Code section 153.133. 

See the text of HB 1012 by clicking here.

Comment:  The law has shifted back and forth over the years as to wehther the parties may agree to a geographic restriction instead of awarding one party or another the right to establish the primary residence.  This has usually arisen as an issue between two very involved parents who want to share custody of their children and who want to live in a small defined area.  Although many divorce lawyer in Dallas and other parts of Texas entered into these agreements when settling cases, the law did not specifically authorize such.  This new law expands the authorized possibilities in fashioning an agreement between parties to raise their children and requires a court to approve such an agreement when reached.  Usually this right is important only when there is a question as to which public school the child must attend within a school district.  Otherwise, the remainder of a typical family law court order sets out each parent’s respective periods of possession of a child (aka parenting time) and otherwise delegates decision-making authority.

Note, however, that the new law only makes this provision for no geographic restriction when dealing with agreements between parties.  In a contested trial, a court may only render an order that designates the conservator who has the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child and the geographic area in which the residence shall be maintained.  The law does not change this.  A judge cannot, after a contested trial, only designate a geographic restriction on the children’s residence without designating a primary parent. 

This will encourage settlement of disputes because the parties will be able to fashion a remedy that the court cannot award at a contested trial.