Within many divorce proceedings involving minor children, the parents—and other parties entitled to parenting time (or visitation) with the children — will have agreed amongst themselves to a parenting plan as to which parent will have primary physical custody, and who will have visitation rights. With a routine firmly in place, the children typically acclimate to the arrangement as do the parents, and nonparents with access, who become accustomed to the regular time-sharing schedule, the holiday schedules and transportation issues.
However, circumstances do arise when parents wish to relocate. Circumstances that prompt such a move include:
In any case, the parent who wishes to relocate is upsetting the current custody and visitation arrangement and likely creating extreme stress for the other parent. Before effectuating the relocation, that parent needs the agreement of the other parent or a court order approving the move. If possible, it is always best to prepare the non-relocating party for the proposed move by meeting, explaining why the move is necessary and how new visitation and time-sharing arrangements can work.
When Can a Parent Relocate?
In Florida, the governing statute pertaining to parents under a custody order who wish to relocate is Section 61.13001 of the Florida Statutes. This pertains to any move that is more than 50 miles from your residence, or where you were living at the time the last custody order or order regarding time-sharing went into effect. There are two methods to achieve this—a signed agreement or by petitioning the court.
If you and the other parent are in agreement regarding the relocation, then you may draft an agreement, though having the assistance of a family lawyer is highly recommended. Florida law requires that it contains:
No hearing is required if the parties sign the agreement or plan, and no objection is made within 10 days after the agreement is filed with the court.
If the parties cannot agree, then the relocating parent must file a petition with the court and serve it on all parties, including nonparents who are entitled to access or parenting time. The petition must contain the following:
“A RESPONSE TO THE PETITION, OBJECTING TO RELOCATION, MUST BE MADE IN WRITING, FILED WITH THE COURT, AND SERVED ON THE PARENT OR OTHER PERSON SEEKING TO RELOCATE WITHIN 20 DAYS AFTER SERVICE OF THIS PETITION TO RELOCATE. IF YOU FAIL TO TIMELY OBJECT TO THE RELOCATION, THE RELOCATION WILL BE ALLOWED, UNLESS IT IS NOT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD, WITHOUT FURTHER NOTICE AND WITHOUT A HEARING.”
The proposed time-sharing and access schedule is absolutely required unless there is an existing order that restricts or terminates time-sharing, or there exists other good cause predating the petition.
Factors the Court Considers
If you have to file a petition, your statement regarding why the relocation is in the best interests of your child must be detailed, but it also must account for the following factors the court considers in whether to grant the order:
Retain a Family Lawyer
Relocating, if under an existing custody or time-sharing order, can be a complex if not stressful situation. If you are petitioning the court, it can be summarily denied by a court if not carefully drafted with the factors the court considers in mind. Even if you and the non-relocating parent are in agreement, you want a family attorney to submit a well-crafted agreement that the court will approve without the time and expense of a hearing or re-petition, if initially denied.
A highly skilled and knowledgeable family lawyer will discuss your reasons for relocating and advise you of what the court requires before you submit the petition. If you are objecting to the relocation, you will need a family attorney who will listen and counsel you regarding your legal rights.