Child Custody Relocation: Probably a Court Battle

A child custody relocation case, where one parent wishes to move out of state with the child, unless the other parent give written consent, typically involves a trial where the left-behind parent can make a case for why the other parent should not be allowed to relocate with the child. The parent looking to relocate must file a Petition in the Circuit Court where the parent and child reside and give notice to (serve) the other parent with the Summons and copy of the Petition. If the other parent would like to fight the relocation, he or she needs to file a formal objection on his answer and ask the court to determine that either the other parent does not have the right to relocate the children under the divorce decree and/or that such a move is not in the child’s best interest.

The Law: Florida Relocation Statute

Under section (1) of Florida Statutes §61.13001, relocation is defined as changing location of the parent’s residence to a new location at least fifty miles away from his or her current address for at least sixty consecutive days. Relocation does not include any temporary absence from the parent’s residence for purposes of vacation, education, or providing health care for the child.

Section (2) in Florida’s child relocation statute sets forth the requirements to obtain a legal relocation by agreement. The parties must sign a written agreement that shall include (1) both parties’ consent to the relocation; (2) a time-sharing schedule specifically for the parent who is not relocating; (3) any transportation arrangements necessary to achieve the new time-sharing schedule. This agreement will be approved by the court without a hearing unless one of the parties requests a hearing within ten days after the agreement is filed. Without an agreement between the parties, any parent seeking to relocate must file a petition with the court.

Section (3) in Florida’s child relocation statute sets forth very specific elements that must be included in the petition to relocate; failure to include any of these elements will prevent the relocation until all of the elements are present within the petition. Relocating without complying with the required elements of the petition will subject the relocating parent to contempt of court, a court order to the return the child, and a basis for the court to deny relocation, change the current time-sharing schedule, and/or order attorney’s fees to be paid by the relocating parent. On the other hand, if the petition to relocate is properly prepared and the non-relocating parent fails to timely file an objection, the court shall grant the petition without a hearing.

Will the judge grant me the petition for relocation?

There are many issues that a judge will consider when deciding whether a custodial parent can remove a child from the state on a permanent basis. The judge will look to the current visitation schedule and what the parenting time schedule might be if the child were to be allowed to move out of the state. The judge will then consider whether this new schedule would allow the noncustodial parent to maintain the same type of relationship he currently has with the child. The court will also consider the distance and expense of travel, as well as the custodial parent’s willingness to comply by the new visitation schedule. If you are facing a removal situation it is best to consult an attorney who handles divorce and child cases.

 How can I make sure the judge will grant me the petition for relocation?

A parent wishing to move with their child out of state has to pass show the court a legitimate reason to move and that the move is in the best interests of the child. If the steps outlined in Section (3) are properly followed, a hearing will be held to determine whether or not the petition should be granted. The parent seeking relocation has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it is in the child’s best interests to relocate. Section (7) of Florida’s child relocation statute provides eleven specific factors the court must consider in making its determination. These factors are:

  1. the child’s current relationship with the relocating parent and with the non-relocating parent and other significant persons in the child’s life;
  2. the age and the corresponding needs of the minor child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child’s development;
  3. the ability of the court to preserve the current relationship between the non-relocating parent and the minor child through substitute arrangements;
  4. the child’s preference;
  5. whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the relocating parent and the child;
  6. the reasons cited by each parent either supporting or opposing the relocation;
  7. the current economic circumstances of each parent and whether the proposed relocation is necessary to improve those economic circumstances;
  8. whether the relocation is sought in good faith, including the extent to which the non-relocating parent has fulfilled his or her financial obligations to the relocating parent;
  9. the career and other opportunities available to the objecting parent if he or she also relocates to stay near the child;
  • any history of substance abuse or domestic violence by either parent, including the failure or success of any attempts at rehabilitation;
  • any other factor affecting the best interest of the child or any factor related to general custody considerations.

After the hearing, can I move?

It depends. The court’s determination can be either temporary or permanent. A court’s determination for temporary relocation must occur much sooner than a permanent one. Temporary relocation is often granted in cases where a number of the above-listed factors are unknown until the relocating parent actually moves to the new location; a common example is whether the relocating parent’s new job in the new location is successful. The court will permit the relocation on a temporary basis so there is an opportunity to discover whether a factor favors one party or not.

These fundamental requirements apply to any party who has a legal right of access to time-sharing with a minor child. Any relocation also implicates these “other persons” (usually grandparents, guardians, or step-parents) who would potentially lose time-sharing with the minor child; thus, these other persons have the same rights to file an objection and plead their case in front of the court as the minor child’s parents. This entire process might be complicated if you are not familiar with the process. Our office will guide you through this process in the most efficient and expedited fashion.

Contact our office:

Address:      2410 Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood, Florida 33020

Phone:         754-300-8980