United States: Wanting To Relocate Your Children Out Of The Area; Some Specific Factors Must First Be Met

Last Updated: November 14 2012

A parent's desire to move outside of Florida once a custody proceeding (including divorce or paternity) has been commenced or concluded can result in challenging legal hurdles. The Florida Statutes prohibit "relocation" of a child unless certain circumstances, discussed below, occur.

Defined by Section 61.13001 of the Florida Statutes, "relocation" means "a change in the location of the principal residence of a parent or other person from his or her principal place of residence at the time of the last order establishing or modifying time-sharing, or at the time of filing the pending action to establish or modify time-sharing." Per statute, the "change of location must be at least 50 miles from that residence, and for at least 60 consecutive days not including a temporary absence from the principal residence for purposes of vacation, education, or the provision of health care for the child."

Accordingly, per Florida Statute, if a custody proceeding, such as a petition for dissolution of marriage or petition to establish paternity, has been filed, or a custody order already entered by the court, for instance, as a result of a concluded divorce or paternity action, "relocation" outside of Florida by one parent with the minor child(ren) is prohibited unless (1) an agreement is reached by the parties; or (2) the Court permits the requested relocation.

Specifically, relocation outside of Florida is permissible if all persons entitled to timesharing with the minor child(ren) agree to the relocation. It is important to understand, however, that, even though a relocation may be agreed upon, Section 61.13001 of the Florida Statutes still sets forth specific requirements before the relocation will be deemed permissible. The agreement must: (i) be in writing, (ii) signed by all parties entitled to timesharing or access with the minor child(ren), (iii) reflect all necessary parties' consent to the relocation, (iv) include a timesharing schedule for the non-relocating parent/party, and, if necessary, (v) describe the transportation arrangements related to the new timesharing schedule.

If parties are unable to reach an agreement as to relocation, then a party requesting to relocate has only one other option under the Florida Statutes, which is to file a Petition to Relocate, which must include: (i) information as to the location of the intended new residence, including a mailing address and home telephone number if known; (ii) a detailed statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation and, if based upon a job offer that has been reduced to writing, a copy of said job offer; and (iii) a proposed post-relocation timesharing schedule, along with a proposal for the transportation arrangements. The Petition to Relocate must further provide specific language regarding the other party's right to file a response objecting to the Petition, which must be filed within 20 days after the Petition to Relocate is served upon the objecting party and include the specific factual basis supporting the reasons why said party opposes the relocation.

Once the Petition to Relocate and Response to same have been filed, the court must determine whether to grant the requested relocation, which the Florida Statutes make clear has no presumption in favor or against. Instead, the court must evaluate various factors set forth by the statute. In doing so, the parent wishing to relocate must demonstrate that the relocation is in the best interests of the minor child(ren). If this burden of proof is met, the non-relocating parent must then show why the proposed relocation is not in favor of the best interests of the minor child(ren).

As evidenced by these detailed statutory requirements, relocation from Florida with a minor child can require navigation through many legal requirements and obstacles. Adherence to the Florida's strict relocation requirements, however, is crucial and can be a difficult process without the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. In the year 2009, The Palmer Team handled one of the few successful international relocation cases in Florida which resulted in the mother and the American children relocating to England. We have also handled multiple relocation cases prior to and after that matter.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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