Mother Seeking New Job Out of Primary Residence Restricted Area Does Not, Alone, Justify Changing Her Primary Custody


Mother Seeking New Job Out of Primary Residence Restricted Area Does Not, Alone, Justify Changing Her Primary Custody


The parents’ divorce Decree named them Joint Managing Conservators with Mother having the exclusive right to designate their child’s primary residence within the state of Texas. Mother received a job offer in Colorado, and then she filed a motion to modify the Decree to allow her to move to Colorado so she could take the new job. Father responded by asking the court to modify the Decree by changing the joint managing conservatorship provisions to alter his possession schedule and set the geographic area for the child’s residence to be within 100 miles of Brazos County. 


The parents’ requested changes to the Decree required a showing that the circumstances of the child or either parent had materially and substantially changed since the divorce. The trial judge concluded that because Father had requested that the Decree be modified too, he had legally admitted that a material and substantial change had occurred. The judge modified the geographic restriction for the child’s primary residence to include the Colorado county and ordered Father to pay monthly child support of $300/month even though the mother had not sought it. 


Father appealed the trial judge’s rulings. The Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated the Decree. The Court of Appeals ruled that technically, Father’s request for a modification was an alternative request if the trial judge found that a material and substantial change had occurred. Insufficient evidence was presented to the trial judge to illustrate what material and substantial changes had occurred. The fact that Mother was offered more money for the job in Colorado was not enough to meet the change-of-circumstances test. Mother had offered—and the trial judge ordered—that she pay for the travel costs associated with the parent’s possession schedule, which significantly reduced the value of the new job’s proposed salary. Also, Mother was not at risk of losing her current job. And Mother was ambiguous about how intently she searched for a job within Texas. Mother did not show any substantial difference between Texas and Colorado schools, the cost of living, or nearby family. The trial judge also erred in granting the mother child support because the divorce Decree did not require Father to pay child support; Mother expressly disclaimed any interest in child support in her petition or pretrial documents; and the matter was not discussed at trial.


Case reference:

In the interest of A.M., a Child, No. 07-20-00130-CV (Tex.App.—Amarillo, Dec. 23, 2020)

*Any article or blog post is for educational and informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice of a licensed Rivers McNamara attorney.

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