I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm very sorry to hear that this happened.
Unfortunately, yes, it's legal. When parents are married, both have equal rights to the children. Neither of them has any rights the trumps the others -and that means the person with possession wins by default until the other parent gets a court order.
You do have the right to go to court immediately and file for divorce plus temporary custody. A judge can order that she return the children to you immediately, and if she doesn't, then she can be charged with Interference with Custody, which is a felony. Tex. Pen. Code, Section 25.03. But you have to go to court first in order to get a custody order. If you have a reason to believe that the children might be in danger, then you can seek an emergency temporary order. Otherwise, you'll get a hearing date and you'll have time to give her notice of the hearing.
Jurisdiction is appropriate in the place where the children live. The longer she is gone, the more likely she'll be able to establish the the children live elsewhere, so that's one reason not to delay. You may be able to share custody even across 200 miles depending on whether the children are in school, but you're able to seek custody. The judge is going to look at multiple factors when making a decision, including:
- the age and health of each of you
- your respective abilities to provide a stable home
- who was the primary caregiver during the marriage.
- the relationship each of you has with the children
- the willingness of each parent to help foster a relationship with the children and the other parent (moving 200 miles away will count against her on this factor)
- the wishes of the children, depending on how old they are
- you can also talk about things like the standard of living in your area, the quality of the schools, and other reasons the judge should order that the mother be required to continue living nearby if she wants to have custody
- any other factor the judge thinks is relevant
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