THE LAW OFFICE OF CHRISTOPHER S. NELSON, P.A.
Parental Relocation with a Child in Florida
by attorney Christopher S. Nelson
If your child is subject to F.S. 61.13001 which is typically when you are in, or were in divorce, paternity or other proceedings under this statute, when one parent wants to relocate more than 50 miles from their current address a specific statutory process must be followed. Here are the steps.
1. Attempt to reach a written agreement allowing relocation.
- Unless a written agreement is entered allowing relocation, or an Order is entered (see below), relocation by a parent with a child subject to this statute is prohibited. Doing so without an agreement or Order authorizing relocation will be problematic for the parent that does so. There is a Florida Supreme Court approved (see link below) form agreement that should be used when an agreement is reached.
2. If no agreement is possible, file a Petition for Relocation
- Assuming that the parent seeking to relocate was unable to reach an agreement authorizing relocation, the Parent must file a Petition to Relocate. There is a Florida Supreme Court approved form Petition for Relocation that should be used (see link below). The Petition must be filed with the Clerk of Court in the Circuit with jurisdiction over the child/proceedings and served on the other parent either by process server or certified mail, signature required, return receipt requested. Once the Petition for Relocation is filed, the other parent has 30 days to file an objection that meets the specific requirements in the Statute - most importantly the objection must state specific reasons as to why the proposed relocation is not in the best interests of the child and the objection must be verified. If no objection is filed within 30 days from service of the Petition for Relocation, it is presumed that the relocation is in the best interests of the child and relocation is therefore authorized. If a valid objection is timely filed, the Clerk or Court shall give the hearing on the Petition priority on it's calendar.
3. Hearing on Petition for Relocation
- At the hearing on the Petition for Relocation, the parent seeking relocation has the burden of proving that the proposed relocation is in the best interests of the child by a preponderance of the evidence. If that burden is met, the burden then shifts to the objecting parent to prove that the proposed relocation is not in the best interests of the child by a preponderance of the evidence. The main factors that the Court should consider at the hearing are:
(a) The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child's relationship with the parent or other person proposing to relocate with the child and with the nonrelocating parent, other persons, siblings, half-siblings, and other significant persons in the child's life.
(b) The age and developmental stage of the child, the needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child's physical, educational, and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child.
(c) The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the nonrelocating parent or other person and the child through substitute arrangements that take into consideration the logistics of contact, access, and time-sharing, as well as the financial circumstances of the parties; whether those factors are sufficient to foster a continuing meaningful relationship between the child and the nonrelocating parent or other person; and the likelihood of compliance with the substitute arrangements by the relocating parent or other person once he or she is out of the jurisdiction of the court.
(d) The child's preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child.
(e) Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the parent or other person seeking the relocation and the child, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefits or educational opportunities.
(f) The reasons each parent or other person is seeking or opposing the relocation.
(g) The current employment and economic circumstances of each parent or other person and whether the proposed relocation is necessary to improve the economic circumstances of the parent or other person seeking relocation of the child.
(h) That the relocation is sought in good faith and the extent to which the objecting parent has fulfilled his or her financial obligations to the parent or other person seeking relocation, including child support, spousal support, and marital property and marital debt obligations.
(i) The career and other opportunities available to the objecting parent or other person if the relocation occurs.
(j) A history of substance abuse or domestic violence as defined in F.S. 741.28 or which meets the criteria of F.S. 39.806(1)(d) by either parent, including a consideration of the severity of such conduct and the failure or success of any attempts at rehabilitation.
(k) Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child or as set forth in F.S. 61.13.
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