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After a divorce or paternity judgment, many parents consider moving for job-related reasons, educational opportunities, to be near extended family or to live with a new significant other. Since Florida law holds that it is in the child’s best interest to maintain a relationship with both parents, the benefits of such a move must be balanced with the child’s needs to spend time with both parents. Moving often makes a child’s visitation with the other parent extremely difficult and expensive.
Pursuant to Florida law, a parent who wishes to move a child’s principal residence more than 50 miles away must either obtain a written agreement and consent to the relocation from the other parent or file and serve a Petition to Relocate. A parent who obtains written consent from the other parent will generally be allowed to move, if the agreement is in writing, describes the time-sharing schedule for the non-relocating parent, and explains transportation arrangements for such time-sharing. The written agreement between the parties must be approved by the court.
If the parents are not in agreement about the relocation, Florida law requires that the parent seeking relocation notify the other parent of the proposed relocation by filing and serving Petition to Relocate (essentially a lawsuit) which includes the date of the proposed move, new address, phone number and reason for the move as well as a proposed post-relocation timesharing schedule and a proposal for transportation arrangements. Upon receipt of the Petition to Relocate, the other parent has 20 days to object or respond to it. If an objection is raised to the proposed relocation, the matter will proceed to a hearing where the court will determine whether the relocation is in the child’s best interest. Several factors are considered by the court in determining whether relocation is appropriate, including:
A parent who relocates a child without complying with the statutory requirements is subject to contempt and other proceedings to compel the return of the child. Improper relocation by a parent may be considered by the court in modification proceedings and in the final determination regarding relocation of the child. The court may also grant a temporary order preventing the relocation of a child, or ordering the return of a child if relocation has occurred, if the court finds that statutory procedures were not followed. The court may also grant a temporary order allowing relocation of the child until the final hearing, but this order is not given any weight in the court’s final determination regarding relocation.
The ramifications of a relocation case are far greater than those of a custody case. If a parent loses a custody case, the child moves across town. If a parent loses a relocation case, the child may end up moving across the country. Relocation cases are complex and should be handled by an experienced attorney who knows and understands the legal parameters and considerations of such issues. If either you or the other parent is planning to move or if you want to dispute a proposed parental relocation by your divorcing spouse, the family law attorneys at Rice can explain your parental rights and explore your legal options so that your rights and your children’s best interests are protected.
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