What is a Geographical Restriction in a Custody Case?
June 30, 2021
BY: Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O'Cathain & O'Cathain
A geographical restriction in a custody case is the use of an order that restricts where the children subject to the order can reside. This means that if there is a geographical restriction to a specific county of one or both of the parental parties, the child/ children must remain in that county until the order is lifted. Oftentimes the order will include surrounding counties as well, this helps ensure that the children will be near both of their parents and that the noncustodial parent can still exercise their visitation rights. In most cases, one parent is awarded the exclusive right to choose the primary residence of the child or children, this makes a geographical restriction order necessary for balancing the rights of each parent. Even though one parent is given exclusive rights over the primary residence, the geographic restriction protects the noncustodial parent from losing access to their child/ children. In some cases, neither party is distinguished as the custodial party. In cases such as these, the geographic restriction provides guidance to both parents as to where the child will live.
It is important to know that not all divorce decrees include a geographical restriction order. However, it is common practice for a judge to include a geographic restriction if it is beneficial to the wellbeing of the child in question. If you are looking to include a geographic restriction in your case, you and the other party can simply add one to the order. If the geographic restriction cannot be agreed upon by both parties, you can then request that the judge review the case and add one if they see fit. If you are the parent that was designated the sole right to decide the primary residence of the child/ children and you wish to relocate, you must first file a petition to modify the existing order. While the petition is pending neither party should move the child or children out of the allocated county, as the original order is still in effect.
If the opposing party cannot be reached or is unresponsive, it is still imperative that you file a petition through the appropriate channels and wait for a ruling by the judge before making any moves outside the designated counties. Not all requests for modifying the order are granted. First the court must decide whether the move is best for the child and then consider the role of the other parent and the reason for the move. If the court finds all these factors to be in favor of one parent, then the order may be changed. Moving without getting the modification to the order approved could result in lose of custody or court-ordered punishments such as fines or jail time. It is relevant to remember that a geographic restriction in a custody case is set for the wellbeing of the child or children and is a legally binding order, meaning it needs to be upheld as any other law.