RELOCATION

with minor child(ren)

Florida Statute 61.13001 defines relocation as a change in the location of a parent’s residence since the time of the last order establishing or modifying timesharing, or at the time of the filing of the pending action to establish or modify timesharing. The change must be at least 50 miles from that residence and for at least 60 consecutive days, which will not include temporary absences due to vacation, education, or healthcare for the child. It is very important for a parent wishing to relocate to understand the laws with regard to relocation because the laws are very specific and strictly enforced. It is equally important for a parent wishing to object to the relocation to be familiar with these laws so that their objection is legally valid. A permissible relocation can occur by a written agreement by the parties or through a court order granting a petition to relocate. 

To satisfy the provisions of a relocation by agreement, the parent and every other person that are entitled to access or timesharing with the child must agree on the relocation, and the written agreement must contain the following: 

 

  1. The consent of all parties to the relocation. 

  2. An access or timesharing schedule for the non-relocating parent and other person(s)  who are entitled to access or timesharing. 

  3. A description of the access or timesharing transportation arrangements. 

 

If there is an existing case at the time the agreement is signed, the parties are required to submit the agreement to the court for entry. An evidentiary hearing will not be required in that instance unless a hearing is requested in writing by one of the parties within 10 days after the date the agreement is filed with the court. If the hearing is not requested within those 10 days, the court will presume that the relocation is in the best interest of the child, and the court may approve that agreement and enter it without the evidentiary hearing. 

 

Absent a written agreement that satisfies the requirements described above, a parent must file a petition to relocate, serve it on the other parent and every other person entitled to access or timesharing. The petition must specifically contain the following:           

 

  1. It must be signed under oath or affirmation under penalty of perjury. 

  2. There must be a description of the location of the intended new residence, including state, city, and specific physical address, if known. 

  3. The petition must include the mailing address of the intended new residence, if it is not the same as the physical address, if known. 

  4. The phone number of the intended new residence, if known. (Typically, parties no longer have landlines, so the phone number is the cell number of the parent wishing to relocate, and that of the child, if applicable).

  5. The date of the intended move or proposed relocation. 

  6. A detailed statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation. If one of the reasons is a job offer and that job offer is in writing, it must be attached to the petition. 

  7. A proposed post-relocation schedule for access and timesharing, along with proposed post-relocation transportation arrangements necessary for timesharing to occur. Failure to comply with the provisions will render the petition to relocate legally insufficient, absent a current valid order abating, terminating, or restricting access or timesharing or other good cause that predated the petition.  

  8. The following statement, in all capital letters, and in the same size type or larger as the type in the remainder of the petition must be included: 

 

A RESPONSE TO THE PETITION OBJECTING TO RELOCATION MUST BE MADE IN WRITING, FILED WITH THE COURT, AND SERVED ON THE PARENT OR OTHER PERSON SEEKING TO RELOCATE WITHIN 20 DAYS AFTER SERVICE OF THIS PETITION TO RELOCATE. IF YOU FAIL TO TIMELY OBJECT TO THE RELOCATION, THE RELOCATION WILL BE ALLOWED, UNLESS IT IS NOT IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD, WITHOUT FURTHER NOTICE AND WITHOUT A HEARING. 

 

The service of process, in my opinion, should be by process server or sheriff if there is no pending case, although if there is not a pending case, the statute provides that certified mail, restricted delivery, with return receipt requested is sufficient. I would absolutely advise service by a process server if you have an attorney, or by sheriff if you do not. This is such a significant issue, and you want to make sure the court knows that the non-relocating parent received notice of the petition and failed to respond.  Many judges struggle with the decision of whether to allow a relocation and are not inclined to grant relocations (the relocation statute states that there is no presumption in favor of or against relocation, but I think this is hard one for the court to grant because the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child is absolutely impacted when you have an involved non-relocating parent).

 

There are also very specific requirements by the parent or other person entitled to access or timesharing objecting to the relocation. They must timely object or it is presumed that the relocation is in the child’s best interest and should be allowed, and the court shall, absent good cause, enter an order as a result of the failure to respond to the petition.  The court will also likely adopt the access and timesharing schedule and transportation arrangement contained in the petition. The court can do this on an expedited basis and without the necessity of an evidentiary hearing. If a response is timely filed, however, the other parent who wishes to relocate cannot do so without a temporary hearing, which will be given priority by the court, or trial, to obtain permission to relocate. 

 

Furthermore, the parent objecting to the relocation must file an answer to the proposed relocation in a timely manner.  The objection must be verified and must include the specific factual basis for the objection to the relocation, including a statement as to the amount of participation the objecting parent has in the child’s life and their level of involvement. Surprisingly, there is no presumption for or against relocation with a child even if it will materially affect the current timesharing schedule that the non-relocating parent has with the child. 

 

In determining whether it is in the best interest of the child to relocate on a temporary or permanent basis, the court will evaluate all of the following:

 

  1. The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child’s relationship with the parent wishing to relocate, as well as with the non-relocating parent. 

  2. The age and developmental stage of the child, that child’s needs, and the likely impact that the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development. 

  3. The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child through substitute arrangements, as well as the logistics of timesharing and the financial circumstances of the parties. The court will consider whether sufficient contact will be available to foster a continuing, meaningful relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent and the likelihood that the relocating parent will actually comply with the substitute arrangements. 

  4. The child’s preference, taking into account the age and maturity of the child. 

  5. Whether the relocation will likely enhance the quality of both the relocating parent’s and the child’s lives, including but not limited to the financial or emotional benefits or educational opportunities. 

  6. The reasons for the parent wishing to relocate as well as the parent objecting to the relocation. 

  7. The current employment and economic circumstances of the parents and whether the relocation is necessary to improve those economic circumstances by the party seeking the relocation. 

  8. That the relocation is sought in good faith and the extent to which the objecting party has fulfilled their financial obligations to the parent wishing to relocate, including but not limited to child support, spousal support, and marital property and marital debt obligations.

  9. The career and opportunities available for the objecting parent to relocate if the relocation were to occur. 

  10. A history of substance abuse or domestic violence, the severity of this conduct, and the failure or success of any attempts at rehabilitation. 

  11. The catch-all of any other factor affecting the child’s best interest. 

 

The initial burden of proof will be on the parent wishing to relocate; however, the burden will shift to the non-relocating parent if the other parent is able to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child. This is a very fact-intensive issue.  If you wish to relocate or you anticipate that the other parent of your child intends to do so, schedule a consult with me to discuss your rights and explore the options available to you.

(407) 905-0500

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