The world is now a smaller place due to advances in technology that allow us to travel faster and stay in constant communication. One significant byproduct of this change is people are much more mobile today compared with previous generations. Moving for a job or a change in lifestyle is now considered normal, and divorced parents, while needing to consider additional concerns, are part of this group. Certainly, all parents must weigh the impact of uprooting a child to a new place before deciding if the transition is in the family’s best interest, but when child custody issues are put into the mix, the decision becomes complicated. The law recognizes the fact that people with shared parenting responsibilities relocate all the time, while also taking into account the competing interest of the parent left behind who will lose regular contact with the child. Consequently, rules are in place to regulate these circumstances, which are aimed at determining if the move is in the child’s best interest, including an assessment of whether the motivation behind the relocation is legitimate and not vindictive. Parents who have conflicted relationships with ex-spouses may want to avoid a discussion on this issue, but relocating parents cannot keep the other parent in the dark. An overview of the legal requirements for a parent planning to relocate will follow below.
Agreement vs. Petition
As a preliminary point, these rules only apply to changes in the parent’s residence that are greater than 50 miles and expected to last more than 60 days. Any relocation less than this distance does not need parent or court approval. At a minimum, the parent seeking to relocate with the child must obtain the consent of the other parent, and memorialize the agreement in writing. The written agreement must include an affirmative acknowledgement of the other parent’s approval and a plan for how the parenting time arrangement will be modified to reflect the child’s new location. If consent is not obtained, the relocating parent must receive permission from a court to move forward. This requires the parent to file a petition in court, and serve a copy to the other parent so he/she has notice of the legal action. The petition must include a description of the reason for the move and a revised timesharing and travel schedule for the child, or it will be dismissed.
Once a parent receives notice about a potential relocation, that parent has 20 days to contest the request. If the parent fails to do so, the relocation will be granted without a hearing or notice, unless it is against the best interests of the child. Filing a response to contest the relocation will put a temporary hold on the move until the matter is settled. The parent seeking to relocate has the obligation to show why the move is in the child’s best interest, but if this burden is met, the responsibility to demonstrate why the move is against the child’s best interest shifts to the parent contesting the move. To evaluate what is in the child’s best interest, courts weigh a number of factors, including how the move will affect the nature and quality of the relationship with the non-relocating parent and how the move may impact the child’s development. Some other factors are:
- the child’s preference, assuming the child is mature enough to make a reasoned decision;
- if the relocation will improve the quality of life for the relocating parent and child;
- if the relocation is requested in good faith; and
- the reason each parent is asking for or objecting to the relocation.
Talk to a Florida Family Law Attorney
If your child is involved in a possible relocation, seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney well before the planned moving date. If a parent relocates with a child without fulfilling the necessary legal requirements, serious legal consequences could follow, including potential loss of custody. The attorneys at the Tampa Bay law firm All Family Group, P.A. understand what is at stake in child-related matters, and will work to get the result is best for your family. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+