Relocation with Children After a Divorce
The issue of relocation with children has evolved over the last ten years. Florida statutes on relocation have changed and court procedure has slowly evolved to balance the rights of children and each parent. First, we must define exactly what is considered a relocation.
A “legal Child relocation” is:
- A move of more than 50 miles from the prior residence – with the children
- Is after a court order that specifies a time sharing plan or parenting plan
- For at least 60 days
- That is not temporary – such as vacation, temporary trip, for healthcare, or for education
Relocation of Child by Agreement
Obviously the parents can agree to relocation. The agreement must show both parents consent. It must also have alternate provisions for time-sharing. It also should have provisions for travel and costs of travel. That is the bare bones requirement of the statute. It would also be a good idea to include:
- How the distant parent will communicate with the child
- Agreement about costs and possible concessions in child support
- Long distance access to medical and school records
- Which court in which state will decide future disputes
- The most important: a detailed parenting schedule for holidays and summer
Contested Relocation with Child
Many requests to relocate are adversarial. In other words the relocation may severly impact on parent and that parent strongly disagrees with relocating the children. There are good reasons for many disputes. The inescapable fact is that relocations can negatively impact the relationship between the non-moving parent and their children. Costs can also skyrocket. If child support is a hardship then airfare and related costs are sure to aggravate that hardship. One way to address costs is to agree on a child support reduction. But many parents refuse to do that and insist on full child support plus travel expenses. Those situations tend to be the most bitterly contested. If there is no agreement in place a contested child relocation case looks similar to a divorce or paternity case. Some of the steps in a relocation case include:
- Petition for Relocation – served on the non-moving spouse
- Description of the proposed new residence
- Date of the proposed relocation
- Proposed, update contact information
- Detailed reasons for the proposed relocation
- A copy of a job offer – if that is the reason for relocation
- A detailed proposed parenting schedule showing how the non-moving parent will have time with their child
- A proposal on travel costs – who will pay them and an approximate budget
After a Petition to Relocate is Filed
After the petition to relocate is served on the non-moving parent they have 20 days to object to the relocation – in writing. If the other parent does not object the court has the ability to quickly enter an order allowing relocation. If there is an objection, the objection must state:
- An objection to the child relocation
- The reason for the objection
- A description of the involvement the objecting party has in the life of their child
Priority of Child Relocation Cases
A contested petition for child relocation must be given priority by the court. But in practice, court calendars are pretty busy. Because of limited court time the ultimate decision may be delayed. The court also has the ability to hear emergency requests for temporary permission to relocate. This must be done by motion after the correct initial procedure is done.
Here are the factors a judge must consider in a contested relocation:
- (a) The quality and type of involvement both parents have with the child.
- (b) The need of the child, the child’s age, and the impact the move will have on the child.
- (c) How practical is would be to preserve the relationship of the child with the non-moving parent.
- (d) The preference of the child provided that the child is of sufficient age to have a legally relevant preference.
- (e) Financial, emotional, and social benefits to the child if the move were granted.
- (f) Reasoning of each parent – for or against the relocation.
- (g) An examination of the financial circumstances of each parent and the effect of the relocation
- (h) Whether all obligations are current such as child support, spousal support, compliance with previous orders, and whether the move is in good faith.
- (i) The effect on career and other opportunities for each parent.
- (j) Whether there is substance abuse and/or efforts to rehabilitate
- (k) Other factors that affect the child
Getting a Judge to Approve Relocation with children
A contested relocation is always a complicated matter. The really big issue is the potential negative effect on the non-moving parent. A judge would be reluctant to grant relocation if by doing so the court would virtually wipe out the relationship between a child and the non-moving parent. Finances also play a big part in the decision. Airfare, time lost from work, and related expenses may be beyond the means of many parents. The costs alone may prohibit a continued relationship with a child.
Any contested relocation of a child – case must concentrate on the best interests of the child. That means the case must be carefully crafted to show the move would be a really good thing for the child. Of course the other party must show the opposite – that the move would be detrimental to the child. Whatever side of the situation you are on there is one primary thing you must concentrate on: the best interests of your child. The argument in court must be directed at what is good for the child – not what is good for you.
There are strict timelines for a child relocation case. And the requirements in both directions are very technical. Like many types of court procedures, you only get on bite at the apple. Our attorneys can help you make your best case in order to achieve your personal goal. Our initial consultations are free. Call us to discuss any pending child relocation issue.