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What is an inconvenient forum and how may it benefit you?

It goes without saying that change is the only certainty in your life. For instance, you may have obtained a Texas divorce in which you received primary custody of your children. Your employer subsequently may have given you a wonderful promotion that necessitated your moving to another state with your children, and the Texas court gave you permission to do so. Now, several years later, your ex-spouse, who still lives in Texas, wants custody of your children for whatever reason. Do you have to go back to Texas to litigate this new custody issue? Maybe not. Per Section 152.207 of the Texas Family Code, you may be able to avail yourself of the inconvenient forum statute.

As you probably know, the Texas court that granted your divorce retains jurisdiction over all matters relating to your children until they become adults. Consequently, that is the court that usually hears and determines any future custody issues that arise between you and your ex-spouse. However, this court may decline to exercise its jurisdiction if it finds that it has become an inconvenient forum due to your children’s present circumstances and that a court in a different state is a more appropriate forum in which to resolve the issue.

Inconvenient forum considerations

A Texas court may declare itself an inconvenient forum if you ask it to do so, if a court in your new state asks it to do so or if it decides on its own motion that it is inconvenient. However the inconvenient forum issue arises, the Texas court considers numerous factors in determining whether or not it is, in fact, an inconvenient forum, including the following:

  • How far away your children currently reside
  • How long they have resided in the new state
  • Your financial circumstances and those of your ex-spouse
  • The types of evidence needed to resolve your custody issue, including the possible testimony of your children, and where this evidence is located 
  • The ability of your state’s court to familiarize itself with the facts, circumstances and issues surrounding this custody litigation as opposed to its own ability to do so
  • Any written agreement you and your ex-spouse entered into regarding which state should assume jurisdiction

Should the Texas court determine that it is an inconvenient forum, it will stay any proceedings before it regarding your children on the condition that you immediately file a custody proceeding in your own court, assuming you have not already done so. The Texas court may also impose any other conditions that it feels are necessary.

While this information is not legal advice, it can help you understand inconvenient forum and what to expect.

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