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Can my family law case be transferred to a different court?

This article about transfer of venue in family law cases was written by Texas Legal Services Center.

 

What is a transfer of venue?

Under certain circumstances, one party may ask that a pending family law case be moved from the court where the case was originally filed to another court. This typically happens when the court where a case was originally filed is no longer convenient because one or more of the parties have moved to another county or state. Moving the case is called a transfer of venue.

The rules for transfer of venue in family law cases are complicated and depend on the type of case involved, and the case’s history.

Note that TexasLawHelp does not have forms for transferring venue in family law cases.

 

Can I transfer my divorce case from the court where I filed it to another court?

Generally, you cannot transfer a divorce case. Except in rare circumstances, a divorce case must be finalized in the court where it was filed.

 

What if my spouse filed for divorce, but I don’t live in that county?

A person can file for divorce in a county if they have lived there for at least 90 days and lived in Texas for at least six months. If those conditions are met, then your spouse may file in that county and the divorce must be completed in that court.

 

What happens if a divorce is filed in one court, but a SAPCR is filed in a different one?

If a suit affecting the child parent relationship (that is, a custody suit) is filed in a different court than the court where the divorce was filed, the SAPCR must be transferred to the court where the divorce case is pending.

See Texas Family Code chapter 103.002.

 

A SAPCR was filed, but is not final. Can I ask for the case to be transferred to another court?

It depends.

  • Generally, a SAPCR should be filed in the county where the child lives.
    • Courts generally assume that a certain county is the child’s county of residence if the child has lived in that county for six months or more.
    • If the SAPCR was filed in a different county, a party may ask that the case be transferred to the child’s county of residence.
  • But, if one parent and the child move out of Texas after the SAPCR has been filed, the case must be heard in the Texas county where the other parent lives.
  • If there are parties to the suit outside of Texas and in different counties in Texas, the case should be heard:
    • in the county where the child lives or,
    • if the child lives out of state, in the county that is most convenient to the other parties.

A judge will decide which county is appropriate.

 

If I sue to modify existing custody orders, can the case be moved to the county where I now live?

If a court issues a final custody order, that court has continuing exclusive jurisdiction over the case from then on. Generally speaking, that court will be the one to hear any future related cases such as modifications.

However, there are a few exceptions:

  • If none of the parties live in Texas and they have not consented to the court continuing to exercise continuing exclusive jurisdiction, then that court has lost continuing exclusive jurisdiction and the case may be transferred.
  • If the parties all consent, the case may be transferred to another county.
  • If all but one party have moved out of Texas since the SAPCR was finalized, the case should be moved to the county where the one remaining Texan party resides.

 

A SAPCR was completed in another state, but I have now moved to Texas. Can I have that order modified here in Texas?

A Texas court can modify a SAPCR from another state if the SAPCR has been registered in Texas and the other state’s court has lost continuing exclusive jurisdiction. An out-of-state court can lose continuing exclusive jurisdiction in these ways:

  • All parties plus the child now live in Texas.
  • All parties now live in Texas except for the child, who lives in a different state from the one that issued the custody order.
  • Both parties consent to another court taking jurisdiction over the case.

 

What is the process for having a case transferred?

File a motion to transfer venue in the court where the SAPCR was finalized. Include an affidavit explaining why the transfer is needed.

 

What is the deadline to file a motion to transfer venue?

The party filing a modification should file the motion to transfer venue at the same time as the petition to modify the SAPCR.

The respondent in a custody or support modification case has until the first Monday after 20 days have passed from the time the respondent was served with the petition to file a motion to transfer venue.

 

Should I speak to an attorney before filing a motion to transfer venue?

Yes! The rules for transferring venue are complicated. An attorney can help you make sure that the process is completed correctly. If you can’t afford to hire an attorney to fully represent you, you may be able to hire an attorney just to draft your motion to transfer venue. This sort of arrangement is called limited scope representation and may allow you to get this limited legal assistance for a significantly lower fee.