Child Custody: Florida Relocation Laws

Divorce with children is never easy. When one parent wants or needs to move to another city, county, or state and they want to bring their child with them, there are several considerations that both parents must make. If the child moves farther away it could disrupt the visitation schedule that is in place, potentially incurring a lot of expenses related to travel. The custodial parent should not be required to leave their child with the other parent if the move is a necessity, but it is also vital that the non-custodial parent’s right to visitation with their child is protected. When such cases are brought before the court, the judge must carefully weigh both sides of the argument and determine what is in the best interest of the child.

How does Florida Define Relocation?

According to Florida law, a parent relocates when they move 50 miles or more from the current residence for a period of not less than 60 days. Temporary changes such as traveling for education, vacation, or to seek medical care for the child are not considered to fall under the definition of relocation. Per Florida family law, the parents must reach an agreement about the relocation, put it in writing with explicit explanations of the terms, and both must sign it. This agreement must include:

  • A statement that both parents agree to the move
  • A visitation schedule for the parent who is not relocating
  • Description of how travel and transportation for visitation will be managed

Once the arrangement is signed the parents can file it with the court. They can submit a request that the agreement is ratified, eliminating the need for either party to attend a hearing.

How to File a Petition to Relocate

If the parents are unable to reach an agreement regarding the relocation, the parent who wished to move is required to file a Petition to Relocate with the court. It must be served to the other parent as well. The Petition to Relocate includes:

  • The date that the relocation will begin
  • The address and phone number of the residence where the parent plans to relocate
  • Reason or reasons for the relocation and any supporting material such as a written job offer
  • The proposed visitation schedule that will commence after the relocation, including the start date
  • Plan for transportation of the child to and from visitation, including any monetary support to be provided by one of both parents in order to aid in travel expenses

The non-relocating parent must be served with the notice and then he or she must file a response within 20 days. If the non-relocating parent fails to respond, the court can legally grant the request for relocation without a hearing.

How the Court Decides Whether or not to Allow a Parent to Relocate with a Child.

When the judge is deciding a relocation hearing, it is the child’s best interests that are upheld first and foremost. There are several factors that the judge much considers, including:

  • The age of the child and current needs (i.e. breastfeeding infant)
  • The nature of the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent as well as the relocating parent
  • If either parent has a history of domestic abuse, substance abuse, criminal activity, etc.
  • If there are financial reasons for the relocation
  • If the relocating parent is moving for good-faith reasons
  • The child’s preference •Reasons the parent wants or needs to move
  • Reasons the parent may be opposed to the move
  • How the relocation will impact the child psychologically and developmentally
  • The ability for both parties to be able to maintain the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent
  • Logistics and expenses associated with maintaining the child’s visitation with the non-relocating parent
  • If the relocation will improve the quality of life of the child and parent
  • If the non-relocating parent is compliant with alimony, child support, and marital property division
  • Any other issues that may affect the interest of the child

The burden of proof is on the relocating parent to show that the move is in the best interest of the child. Once the motion to relocate is filed, a hearing will be scheduled within 30 days, or a trail will be scheduled within 90 days. If you are seeking to relocate with your child or your child’s other parent is seeking to relocate, you need to speak with a family law attorney. Finding an experienced divorce attorney is imperative for the success of your case, you need to talk to the lawyers at Sean Smallwood, attorney at law. We will help you navigate the Florida family court system to do what is best for your child. Call today and schedule a confidential consultation. Divorce is hard, let us help you through it.

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