Florida Child Custody Laws: Parental Relocation with Children

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When a parent moves more than 50 miles from the place where his or her principal place of residence was at the time when the last order establishing or modifying time-sharing with a child was entered, or where his or her principal place of residence was at the time when a pending petition to establish or modify the parents’ time sharing arrangements was filed, under Florida’s parental relocation statute, section 61.13001, Florida Statutes, the move can be considered a substantial change in circumstances that will require a modification of the parenting plan and visitation schedule. In order to trigger the operation of parental relocation statute, the change of location must be for at least 60 consecutive days, not including temporary absences for vacations, education, or to provide health care for the child.

If a parent’s move triggers the operation of the relocation statute, the parents and every other person entitled to access to or time-sharing with the child can satisfy the requirements of the relocation statute and Florida Child Custody Laws by signing a written agreement that 1) reflects consent to the relocation, 2) defines an access or time-sharing schedule for the non-relocating parent and any other persons who are entitled to access or time-sharing, and 3) describes, if necessary, any transportation arrangements related to access or time-sharing. If there is an existing legal action, judgment, or decree of record regarding the child’s residence or a time-sharing schedule, the relocation statute requires that the parties must seek ratification of their agreement by a court order, but without the necessity of an evidentiary hearing unless one is requested in writing by one or more of the parties to the agreement within 10 days after the date the agreement is filed with the court. If a hearing is not timely requested, the Court will presume that the agreed upon relocation is in the best interest of the child and may ratify the agreement without an evidentiary hearing.

If, however, the parents and every other person entitled to access to or time-sharing with the child do not enter into an agreement regarding the parent’s relocation, then the parent or other person seeking relocation must file a petition with the Court to relocate and serve it upon the other parent, and every other person entitled to access to or time-sharing with the child. The petition must be signed under oath or affirmation under penalty of perjury and include 1) a description of the location of the intended new residence, including the state, city, and specific physical address, if known, 2) the mailing address of the intended new residence, if not the same as the physical address, if known, 3) the home telephone number of the intended new residence, if known, 4) the date of the intended move or proposed relocation, 5) a detailed statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation. If one of the reasons is based upon a job offer that has been reduced to writing, the written job offer must be attached to the petition, 6) a proposal for the revised postrelocation schedule for access and time-sharing together with a proposal for the postrelocation transportation arrangements necessary to effectuate time-sharing with the child. Absent the existence of a current, valid order abating, terminating, or restricting access or time-sharing or other good cause predating the petition, failure to comply with this provision renders the petition to relocate legally insufficient, and 7) a statement advising the other party(ies) that their response(s) must be filed and served within 20 days, in substantially the form set forth in the statute in all capital letters and in the same size type, or larger, as the type in the remainder of the petition.

The petition to relocate must be served on the other parent and on every other person entitled to access to and time-sharing with the child, in the manner required by the relocation statute.

If the other parent and any other person entitled to access to or time-sharing with the child fails to timely file a response objecting to the petition to relocate, it is presumed that the relocation is in the best interest of the child and that the relocation should be allowed, and the law requires that, absent good cause, the court shall enter an order specifying that the order is entered as a result of the failure to respond to the petition and adopting the access and time-sharing schedule and transportation arrangements contained in the petition. The order may be issued in an expedited manner without the necessity of an evidentiary hearing. If a response is timely filed, the parent or other person may not relocate, and must proceed to a temporary hearing or trial and obtain court permission to relocate.

A parent or other person seeking to relocate has a continuing duty to provide current and updated information required by the relocation statute when that information becomes known.

Relocating with a child, but without complying with the requirements of the relocation statute, will subject the party violating the statute to contempt and other proceedings authorized by Florida Child Custody Laws to compel the return of the child. An unauthorized relocation may be taken into account in court in any legal action seeking a determination or modification of the parenting plan or the access or time-sharing schedule as a factor a) in making a determination regarding the relocation of a child, 2) in determining whether the parenting plan or the access or time-sharing schedule should be modified, 3) as a basis for ordering the temporary or permanent return of the child, 4) as sufficient cause to order the parent or other person seeking to relocate the child to pay reasonable expenses and attorney’s fees incurred by the party objecting to the relocation, and 5) as sufficient cause for the award of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, including interim travel expenses incident to access or time-sharing or securing the return of the child.

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* Disclaimer: This article is intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal advice. There is no lawyer and client relationship arising from this article. You may contact us to discuss your specific concerns if you are seeking legal advice, assistance or representation.