Parental Relocation of Children Under Florida Law
Parental relocation of a child or children after a divorce or paternity judgment can be a very contentious and complex issue. At Douglas E. Spiegel P.A., an experienced attorney can help guide you through the process and present your arguments in the most effective manner before the court.
When a custodial parent wishes to relocate with a child more than 50 miles away, that parent must follow specific procedural rules, and demonstrate to the court that the move is in the child's best interest. Florida statute 61.13001 guides the party through the factors the court will consider in determining whether the move is in the child's best interest.
Florida's Parental Relocation Statute
Under Florida law, strict procedures must be followed in relocation cases. Before moving a child's principal residence address more than 50 miles away, a primary residential parent (custodial parent) must either: obtain the written agreement of all parties entitled to visitation with the child; or file and serve Petition to Relocate on the other parent.
Relocation by Agreement
A custodial or primary residential parent may move if he or she obtains the written consent of the other parent and every other person entitled to visitation with the child. An informal agreement between the parents is not enough. The agreement must be in writing and reflect the consent to the relocation; define the visitation rights for the parent who is not moving (and any other persons who are entitled to visitation); and describe the transportation arrangements related to the visitation. The agreement must then be ratified by the court.
Petition to Relocate with a Child
If the primary residential parent wants to move with the child or children more than 50 miles away, he or she must notify the other parent of a proposed relocation - unless the parents have agreed to the move as discussed above. The Petition to Relocate must list the intended new residence, the date of the intended move, a detalied statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation and a proposel for the revised post-relocation schedule for access and timesharing including transportation arrangement. If the relocation is for a job, the petitioner must attach a written job offer to the petition. The other parent can then agree to or object to the proposed move.
Relocating a child without complying with the statuatory requirements subjects the relocating parent to contempt and other proceedings to return the child to the jurisdiction. It may also be taken into account by the court if the non-custodial parent seeks modification of the original agreement to increase his/her visitation with the child.
Relocation of a Child if Non-Custodial Parent Does Not Agree
Pursuant to the relocation statute, the custodial parent cannot move during the time the other party has to object to the move. Nor can the parent move without court approval if the other parent has filed an objection to the move. If the non-custodial parent objects to the move there will be a hearing where the court will determine if the proposed move is in the best interest of the children. In deciding whether to allow the move, the court will consider all facts and circumstances, including:
- The quality and extent of the relationship between the child and the non-relocating party, including siblings, half-siblings and other significant persons in the child's life
- The age and developmental stage of the child, the needs of the child and the likely impact the relocation will ahve on the child's physical, educational and emotional development
- The feasability of maintaining the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent
- The child's preference, taking into consideration the child's age and maturity
- Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the parent and child, including, but not limited to, financial, emotional or educational benefits
- The reasons the parties are either seeking or opposing the relocation
- The current employment and economic circumstances of each parent and whether the relocation is necessary to improve that situation
- Whether the relocation is being brought in good faith and the extent to which the objecting parent has fulfilled his/her financial obligations to the other party, including child support, spousal support and marital property/debt obligations
- The career and other opportunities available to the objecting parent or other person if the relocation occurs.
- Whether there is a history of substance abuse by either parent
- Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child
The parent wishing to relocate has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence (greater weight of the evidence) that the relocation is in the best interest of the child. If that burden is met, the objecting parent has the burden to prove that the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child.
Our firm will work closely with each client to identify factors relevant to child custody and relocation issues and effectively communicates those factors to the court.
Working to Protect Your Parental Right to Child Custody and Visitation
If you are considering relocating, or if your ex-spouse has filed a notice of intent to relocate or has already relocated with your child, we can advise you and help to protect your parental rights. If the other parent's relocation with your child will impose on your right to spend meaningful and consistent time with your child, we will work with you to protect your custodial and time-sharing rights with your child or children.