How Relocation is Defined in a Florida Divorce

If you are divorcing with kids, you may want to move to a new city. Sometimes parents with children have to move for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you want to move closer to family. Maybe you got a job offer that you cannot pass up. In some cases, people move simply because they desire a change in scenery. They want to move on from their divorce, and part of this process may mean moving to the country, to the city, near the beach, or to some other location that they have been wanting to move to for quite some time.

However, relocating with a child is not so simple. Under Florida law, relocation means that the parent has moved more than 50 miles away from the principal location, or marital home. To see if the 50-mile rule applies, some people go online to Mapquest or some navigational tool and get the driving distance between the two residences. However, this is not the true test of distance under the law. The actual test involves a straight line, such as by bird’s flight, from Point A to Point B. The test does not account for curves in the road. Therefore, it is possible that you may not actually be relocating at all.

What is Parental Relocation?

Under Florida Statute 61.13001(1)(e), relocation is defined as a 50-mile distance in the change of locations. This would refer to the distance between the former principal residence of a parent and the new proposed location. The proper way to measure the distance between two points is
“as the crow flies,” otherwise known as a straight-line test. Parental relocation is defined as a change of location that is at least 50 miles from that residence and in place for a period of at least 60 consecutive days, A temporary relocation, such as for education or vacation, does not apply in this case.

The parent who wishes to relocate must be able to prove that relocation is in the best interest of the child. If this burden of proof is met, and the non-relocating parent does not agree with the relocation, it is then up to the non-relocating parent to prove with evidence that the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child.

Sometimes both parents will automatically agree to the relocation. If this is the case, this definitely makes the process easier. All parties will simply sign a written agreement that shows that the parties consent to the relocation. There must also be a time-sharing schedule in place as well as details of the transportation arrangements related to access and custody.

When There is No Agreement

If the parties involved have not signed an agreement, the relocating parent must submit a petition to relocate. This document must be signed under oath and include the following:

  • Description of the new location, including the physical address and mailing address
  • Home telephone number of the new residence, if applicable
  • Date of the intended move to the new location
  • Reason for the relocation. If the reason is a new job, the job offer must be included in the petition.
  • Proposed custody and access schedule once the child has been relocated

The petition to relocate must be served on the other parent. If the other parent fails to respond with an objection, then it will be presumed that the relocation is in the best interests of the child. The court will then enter the order and adopt the schedule and transportation arrangements detailed in the petition. No hearing will be required. However, if the other parent objects to the relocation, they must file a timely response. They must file an answer with valid reasons for objecting the relocation. This answer must include details regarding the amount of participation or involvement the parent has in the child’s life. If this information is received timely, a hearing or trial will be scheduled and the parent will then need permission from the court in order to relocate.

If a parent does not obey court orders and relocates the child anyway, the parent can be charged with contempt of court. They must immediately return the child. They could be subject to criminal charges and they may also be ordered to pay attorney’s fees, court costs and other expenses incurred due to the unapproved relocation.

What Will the Court Look At?

To determine if the parent can relocate with the child, the court will look at various factors, including the following:

  • The child’s relationship with both parents
  • Logistics and ability to preserve the relationship with the non-relocating parent
  • The child’s age as well as physical, emotional and educational needs
  • Reasons for the relocation
  • Benefits of the relocation
  • Employment circumstances of each parent
  • History of substance abuse or domestic violence in either parent
  • The child’s preferences

Seek Legal Help

Divorcing with kids can be stressful and emotional, plus the laws involved can be confusing. If you are divorcing with kids, you will want to know the state’s relocation laws and how they may affect you.

Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help you understand the laws when it comes to relocation in Florida. Whether you are the one relocating with the children or the other parent is the one relocating and you object to the move, you will want to know your legal rights. Schedule a consultation by calling (954) 346-6464 or filling out the online form.