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Can I move with my child?

During or after a separation, there may be many good reasons to relocate with a minor child. A parent may wish to pursue a career opportunity in a different city, relocate to be closer to family, or move for other compelling reasons. Yet, a parent who wishes to relocate with a minor child must comply with Florida Statutes §61.13001 before moving with the child.

Under section (1) of Florida Statutes §61.13001, relocation is defined as changing location of the parent's residence to a new location at least fifty miles away from his or her current address for at least sixty consecutive days. Relocation does not include any temporary absence from the parent's residence for purposes of vacation, education, or providing health care for the child. Florida child relocation laws require that when a parent wants to relocate with a child more than 50 miles from their current residence they, first must obtain a court order.

Florida Child Relocation with Consent from the Other Parent

Under Florida child relocation statutes, in order for a relocation agreement to be effective, both parents must agree to the relocation. The agreement must be in writing and include a parenting plan that outlines the time-sharing schedule for custody after the relocation occurs. Parents should also account for and describe the transportation arrangement related to time-sharing in the parenting plan. Moreover, the agreement must be submitted to a court and signed by a judge. This agreement will be approved by the court without a hearing unless one of the parties requests a hearing within ten days after the agreement is filed.

Florida Child Relocation with No Consent from the Other Parent

If the other parent does not agree to the relocation the relocating parent must file a Petition to Relocate. Florida child relocation procedure will require the other parent to be served with a copy of the petition. If no objection to the petition is filed within the time allotted, the court may grant the petition to relocate without an evidentiary hearing. However, if the nonrelocating parent objects to the relocation there must be a hearing or trial before the relocation can occur.

Is the move in the best interests of the child?

The parent seeking the relocation has the burden of proof to show by the preponderance of the evidence that the relocation is in the best interest of the child. Under the "preponderance of the evidence" standard, this means the person wishing to move must show it is more likely than not that the move is in the best interests of the child for the court to approve it. Should the moving party meet this burden, the burden shifts to the nonrelocating parent to show by a preponderance of evidence that the move is not in the best interests of the child.

To determine what is best for the child with respect to parental relocation, the court will look to many factors, such as:

  • The child's relationship with both the moving parent and the nonmoving parent, as well as the child's relationship with siblings, half-siblings and anyone else of significance in the child's life

  • The age, maturity and any special needs of the child, and how the move would be likely to affect the child's development

  • Whether the move will improve the general quality of life for the both the parent wishing to relocate and the child, including financial benefits or educational opportunities

  • The workability of preserving the relationship between the nonmoving parent and the child

  • The reasons of each parent for seeking or opposing the move

  • Any history of substance abuse or domestic violence by either parent

  • The child's preference, taking into account the child's age and maturity level

The above list is non-exhaustive and a court will consider many other factors. Also, the court's determination can be either temporary or permanent.

Removal Consequences

The Florida Relocation Statute is severe and clear. Failure to obtain a court order granting or approving the relocation can result in contempt of court. Furthermore, a court can compel the return of the child and take the parent’s actions into account when ruling on a petition to modify a parenting plan. Such actions could cause the relocating parent to lose custody of minor child.

The process of relocating with a minor child can be complex. If you are interested in filing a petition to relocate or objecting to a relocation you should contact an experienced family law firm for specific advice regarding your case.