Florida Child Custody and Relocation

Florida Child Custody and RelocationMany situations in life are not ideal, which is one of the reasons some couples turn to divorce. Sometimes, a divorce can provide new opportunities and experiences for both spouses in many different parts of their individual lives. Some changes that may take place could involve relocating. People relocate after a divorce to be closer to their family, for improved career opportunities, for a fresh start in a place where they are no longer in the same vicinity as their ex, or for a variety of other reasons. Regardless of the reason for leaving, relocating can cause issues in a divorce, especially when children are involved.

How Relocation Works

If you are moving one city over, you likely do not need to worry about the formal process related to relocation. Relocation becomes an issue if you wish to move a child more than 50 miles away from the nonresidential parent. In other words, a parent with primary custody may want to move closer to their family members in another part of Florida or even in another state. In such cases, the parent wishing to move must fill out a request for temporary relocation that will be considered by a Florida court. Such agreements must be in writing and must include:

  • A description of the proposed new residence, including physical address, if known;
  • The mailing address for the new residence, if known;
  • The home telephone number of the new residence, if known;
  • The date of the intended move or proposed relocation to the new residence;
  • A detailed statement for the reason(s) for relocation, including a written job offer if such an offer is one of the reasons for relocation;
  • A detailed proposal for the proposed time-sharing agreement should relocation be granted, including provisions for visitation travel and related costs;
  • A statement in all capital letters reflecting: “Any objections to a request for relocation must be made in writing, filed with the court, and served on the person requesting relocation within 20 days of the receipt of the petition to relocate.”

There are other important legal requirements for petitions to relocate as well as responses to those petitions. An experienced Florida divorce attorney can help you understand more about what is involved in the process.

When Parents Agree on Relocation

Florida law states that when both parents agree to the relocation plan, they can explore a written modification of their custody agreement. If other people are legally entitled to visitation with the child, they will also have to consent to relocation. Typically, situations in which all parties agree to relocation involve the creation of a time-sharing plan. Such plans grant physical custody to one parent while preserving generous visitation options for the parent without physical custody of the child or children in question. If parents can agree on the logistics of relocation, then they must provide the court with written confirmation that all parties consent to the proposed relocation as well as the conditions related to it but do not need to involve as many specifics as are discussed above. Ultimately, the court must approve the request for relocation before it will be allowed, but there are few circumstances in which all parties agree to relocation when the court might determine relocation is not in the child’s best interests. The court may offer the nonmoving parent additional visitation time and may ask parents to revisit a proposed timesharing arrangement before approving the request to relocate.

When Parents Disagree on Relocation

More often than not, parents are unable to agree on a relocation plan even when such a plan only involves an in-state move. If one parent or other party legally entitled to visitation with the children objects to the relocation, Florida law requires the more formal petition discussed above must be filed with the court.

Factors Considered in Relocation

Parents worried about relocation should not assume that a court will automatically side with one parent over the other. Florida courts operate under the presumption that a child’s best interests are served when the child can spend equal or near equal amounts of time with both parents. However, a court will consider relocation requests by looking at the following factors:

  • The child’s age;
  • The potential impact on the child’s overall health, including mental and emotional well-being;
  • Any special needs the child may have physically, mentally, emotionally, developmentally, and/or educationally;
  • If visitation arrangements can be made that minimize the potential impact a relocation is likely to have on the relationship between the child and the nonmoving parent;
  • The reasons for the requested relocation, including specifics as to how it would advance the child and moving parent’s life;
  • Reasons behind the requested relocation, such as a job offer or to strengthen family relationships; and/or
  • The child’s preference regarding to potential relocation.

Ultimately, a court will look at these and any other applicable factors to make sure that any proposed relocation is in the best interests of the child and minimizes the impact such a move will have on the child’s relationship with both parents as well as with other family members.

While there is no absolute set of criteria in which a Florida court needs to approve a petition for relocation, you should keep in mind that the court will ultimately make determinations on these requests based on what is best for the child or children in question. Precedent has demonstrated that remarriage or other reasons of convenience will not on their own be enough of a reason for a Florida court to grant a petition for relocation. Gearing your request to highlight the benefit relocation can have on your child’s life will be your best bet for success in requesting permission to relocate.

Legal Assistance with Florida Custody

Custody can be a complicated issue. If you are facing custody issues either related to divorce or to the modification of an existing custody order, including filing or objecting to a petition for relocation, contact Scott J. Stadler to schedule a consultation. Mr. Stadler is a Florida family law attorney that focuses his practice on clients facing issues related to divorce, including child custody issues.