Florida laws which govern parental responsibility and relocation detail certain factors which will be considered in the event one parent wants to make a major move. Of course every case is different; the attorneys at The Law Place will perform an in-depth, fact-specific analysis of your particular case in order to determine the best course of action—whether you are the parent who is petitioning to make a move or the parent who is opposing the move. The judge in your case will carefully consider the reasons given for relocation, the extent of the parental involvement from each parent, the impact the move will have on the children, and the financial impact of such a move.
In theory, the judge will grant equal weight to each of these factors, giving no greater importance to one over the others. Relocation cases are quite often hotly contested and emotions can run high when one parent is faced with the prospect of being separated from his or her children. An attorney from The Law Place can provide you with a clear, objective point of view before the judge makes a decision which leaves you stunned.
How the Florida Relocation Statute Can Affect a Proposed Move
Due to the significant economic changes seen in the United States over the past few years, it has become more and more common for one parent or the other to seek to relocate in the quest of better employment or to be closer to family members. Whether more than fifty miles from the current location or even outside the state of Florida, a divorced parent with a parenting or time-sharing plan in place cannot simply pack up and move without the court’s permission. It is important to understand the basics of the Florida Relocation Statute prior to seeking permission to relocate or if you are opposing the other parent’s proposed move.
Florida Statute 61.13001 (Parental Relocation with a Child) can be complex to wade through on your own. The Family Law Place Attorneys can help you decipher these complexities, determining how best to proceed. In general terms, the proposed change of location must be at least 50 miles from the original residence and for at least 60 consecutive days. Temporary absences for vacation, education or the provision of health care do not fall under this statute. A parent who desires to relocate must either obtain agreement in writing from the other parent which is then approved by the court or must file a Petition to Relocate, should the other parent object to the move. The process detailed under the Florida statute is very specific as to what the Petition to Relocate must contain, how it is to be delivered to the other parent and what language and content the Petition must contain.
Parents who relocate a child or children without fully complying with the requirements of the Florida Relocation Statute are subject to charges of contempt as well as legal actions to compel the return of the child. Relocating a child without the other parent’s and the court’s permission can factor into the court’s determination of relocation approval, can determine whether the parenting plan should now be modified, and can result in the parent seeking relocation being required to pay expenses and attorney’s fees for the other parent. In short, moving your child without the proper legal authorization could result in the loss of custody of your child.
When Both Parents Agree to a Potential Move
Suppose you are lucky in that the other parent has no problem with your proposed move (or you agree to the move of the child’s other parent). In these cases an agreement—in writing, with very specific language—must be filed and must include the consent of the non-custodial parent to the move, a modification request regarding the schedule for visitation, and any arrangements reached regarding transportation which enables visitation. Any other person with visitation rights (grandparents, etc.) must also approve the proposed relocation. Although every situation is different, it is advisable for the relocating parent to offer the other parent some “perks,” to compensate for the move such as increased visitation during vacations or school breaks. Remember, even if both parents are in absolute agreement regarding a proposed relocation, the relocation still requires the approval of the family court judge.
When there is a Dispute Regarding a Potential Move
If the non-custodial parent is not in agreement regarding the proposed relocation plans, then the parent desiring relocation must file a Petition for Relocation. While and attorney from The Law Place can assist you with the specifics, the Petition must include the following:
• The proposed new physical location, mailing address and phone number
• The date the proposed move is expected to occur
• The reason for the move, such as an offer of employment, to be closer to family members or to provide a better education for the child
• A schedule regarding the proposed visitation which would be in place after the move, including all transportation arrangements
• Notice must be provided to the parent objecting to the relocation which included clear details on objecting to the Petition as well as the outcome of failing to respond to the Petition to Relocate.
Should the non-custodial parent fail to respond to the petition, the judge may make the decision that the proposed move is in the best interests of the child. If the non-custodial parent does respond, a hearing or trial will be scheduled in order to make a legal determination regarding parental relocation.
What the Florida Courts Will Consider
Like family court judges in every state, your Florida family court judge will make a determination regarding parental relocation solely on the best interests of the child. If the judge believes that a move away from school, friends and family would be traumatic for the child or children, the move may be denied. Family court judges generally consider the following factors when determining whether to allow a parental relocation:
• The relationships the child has with both parents, siblings, grandparents, other relatives, friends and even teachers
• After taking the child’s age into consideration, the judge will determine how relocation will affect the mental, physical and emotional development of the child.
• If the child has any special needs, these will be factored in.
• The judge will determine whether the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent can be preserved through thoughtful visitation and travel arrangements.
• If the child is old enough, the judge may consider the child’s preferences regarding a potential relocation.
• If the relocation will significantly enhance the future of the relocating parent or the child, this will be taken into consideration.
• The reasons for the proposed move are extremely important; better employment or educational opportunities will naturally carry some weight with the judge.
• The judge will want to consider the objections of the non-custodial parent and determine if these objections are valid.
• If a parent seeks to relocate simply to deprive the other parent of court-ordered visitation rights or for some sort of revenge, the court will not grant the Petition to Relocate.
The Law Place—Working to Protect Your Parental Rights
Whether you are a custodial parent who wants to relocate or the non-custodial parent who objects to the relocation, you should definitely consult with an experienced family law attorney. There is a relatively short window of opportunity in which to object to a proposed move, yet if you feel your relationship with your child will suffer, it is important that your parental rights are fully protected. Time is generally of the essence when a job opportunity is the reason for the proposed relocation and the attorneys at The Law Place will request that the case be given priority on the court’s calendar in such cases. As the non-relocating parent, a response objecting to the move must be filed within 20 days of being served with a Petition to Relocate. The Law Place attorneys will ensure no crucial deadlines are missed and will be by your side throughout the entire process. Don’t wait until you have lost your right to object or that great job opportunity has passed—call The Law Place today.