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ONE OF THE MOST significant challenges divorcing families with minor children face can be relocation, particularly if one or both of the parents need to move some distance away due to employment or, perhaps, a new relationship. This issue is such a hot button with families, Florida has a specific statute to address it. In general, the law prevents a parent from relocating a child more than 50 miles from the principal residence of the other parent at the time of the last order establishing or modifying time sharing.
If you think you may need to relocate with your child, you need to know the following:
1. You can agree to relocation. If the parents and every other person entitled to access or time-sharing with the child agree to the relocation of the child, the parties may enter into a written agreement so long as the agreement reflects consent by all parties, clearly defines the time-sharing schedule for the non-relocating parent and all others entitled to time-sharing; and describes any transportation arrangements. If there is an existing cause of action or judgment relating to time-sharing or relocation, the parties will need to seek ratification of the court. (Either party may request an evidentiary hearing as long as they do so within 10 days of the filing date of the agreement, otherwise, it shall be presumed relocation is in the best interest of the child and the court may ratify the agreement without the hearing.)
2. If the parties do not agree, the party seeking to relocate must file a petition. If the parties cannot agree on relocation, the party seeking relocation with the child must file a petition with the court and serve it on the other parent and every other person entitled to time-sharing with the child. The petition must contain very specific language as set forth in statute, and be signed under oath or affirmation under penalty of perjury. One of the key items which must be included if the stated reason for relocation is a job offer is a copy of the written offer attached to the petition. Also, the petition must include a proposal for post-relocation transportation arrangement for the child and failure to comply with this provision will automatically render the petition legally insufficient (with some exceptions). In all capital letters, the petitioner must include very specific language as set forth in the statute informing the other parties that a response objecting to the relocation must be made in writing, filed with the court, and served on the party seeking relocation within 20 days after service of the petition to relocate or the relocation will be allowed, without further notice or hearing, unless it is found by the court not to be in the best interests of the child.
3. The penalties for relocating a child without complying with the law are severe. A parent who relocates with a child without complying with the relocation law may be subject to contempt and other proceedings to compel the return of the child. Ultimately, this may result in the court modifying the parenting plan and time-sharing in favor of the non-relocating parent, and ordering reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, including travel expenses incurred while securing the return of the child.
The court evaluates many factors to determine the best interests of the child in a contested relocation including but not limited to the nature, quality and extent of involvement of the child with each parent and other family members, the age and developmental stage of the child and the likely impact of relocation on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development, the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent through substitute arrangements given logistic and financial circumstances, and the child’s preference taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child.
This information provided in this article is not comprehensive and is for educational purposes only. It may or may not apply to the facts of your particular case. The relocation statute and case law is complex. To view the complete text of the the Florida Statute governing relocation, click here. If you are considering relocation, or if your spouse is considering relocation with your mutual, minor children, it is important you meet with an attorney experienced in these matters to discuss your options. Pleasecontact our office to schedule an appointment to discuss the facts in your case.