Florida's Relocation Statute — Do I Really Need the Court's Permission to Move?
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
As we all know, life can be complicated. And sometimes it can throw things at us that we do not expect, such as the need to move to another city or state. This is already a complex situation, but when you have previously been divorced or share custody of your child with a co-parent, the level of complication ramps up a good bit.
When you divorced, a parental timesharing agreement or order was put into place by a judge. This timesharing schedule was either agreed to by you and your ex, or it was decided by the judge. In the vast majority of cases, a parenting plan gives each parent adequate time to be with their child. Often, the child spends part of each week or month with one parent and the remainder of their time with the other parent.
But what about when something comes up that requires one parent to move away? Florida law has something to say about one parent’s ability to move farther than 50 miles away from their current residence because to do so means that the other parent’s ability to spend time with their child is negatively impacted. Florida law addresses this highly emotional and complex issue in Florida Statue §61.13001.
What Do I Need to Do If I Have a Good Reason to Relocate?
In situations where one parent feels that they must relocate, Florida judges have a difficult task. They must balance two competing and equally compelling interests: One parent’s right to move for legitimate reasons, and the other parent’s right to spend time with their child and be part of that child’s life. And as always, the best interest of the child is of paramount concern. So let’s take a look at what needs to happen before you can relocate with your child when a parenting plan is in place.
Relocation in Florida is defined as the residential parent moving more than 50 miles away from their current address for more than 60 days. If the need for such a move arises, the first thing that co-parents should do is talk and make their best attempt to work out an agreement. As with all things related to child custody, it is always preferable for the interested parties to reach an agreement between themselves. After all, this is your life and your child’s life. Before you summon a judge — who doesn’t know you, your child, or your ex — to make these life-altering decisions for you, do yourself a favor and try to reach an amicable agreement with your ex.
Both of you can sit down and try to hammer out the details yourself or in mediation. Perhaps you can allow your ex certain visitation rights that fulfill their desire to be a part of their child’s life. For instance, instead of seeing your ex every weekend throughout the year, you could arrange for your child to spend summer vacations with them. Or perhaps you can work out extended stays with your ex during long weekends and holidays.
If you can work out an agreement, you need to put all the details in writing. This agreement then essentially becomes a contract, and it must:
Declare that both parents agree to the relocation;
Detail a time-sharing plan and specific schedule for the non-relocating parent; and
Address how transportation will be handled for planned visitation periods.
If such an agreement is reached, the parents can file their signed document with the court. Typically, such an agreement can be ratified by a judge without the need for a formal hearing on the issue.
File a Petition to Relocate
If parents cannot come to a mutual agreement, then you must file a petition that requests permission from the court to move. According to the guidelines of Florida Statue §61.13001(3), your petition must include some key pieces of information, including:
The physical address you intend to move to, if known;
The phone number of the new residence, if known;
The date of the intended move;
A description of the reasons for the move — if it is job-related and there is a written job offer, then you should attach a copy of the written offer to the petition;
A proposed visitation plan; and
A proposed plan that details how transportation is to be handled to effectuate the visitation schedule.
If you fail to comply with these requirements, then your petition will likely be deemed legally insufficient and result in a denial of your request to relocate.
This petition must be served on the other parent, who then has 20 days to file and serve an objection to the petition. This objection must state any factual basis for objecting to the relocation and a statement of the objecting party’s current amount of involvement in the child’s life. If no objections are filed, then the court may grant the petition without a hearing. However, even without an objection, it is advisable to get a hearing to obtain a court order that permits the relocation.
If you relocate without following the above steps, you could be held in contempt of court for violating the parenting plan. And if you are found to have violated the original court-ordered parenting plan, this may harm your chances of maintaining your own current level of involvement in your child’s life.
Other Court Considerations
Even if the relocation will materially affect the current timesharing arrangement, the court does not start with any presumption for or against the relocation. However, as with all child custody decisions, if the petition is contested and the court has to decide the case, the determining factor is what is in the child’s best interest. Some other factors the court may consider are:
The impact the move may have on the child’s development;
The level of relationship the child currently has between the residential and non-residential parent;
The child’s age and their preference;
The logistics and costs associated with maintaining visitation between the child and the non-relocating parent; and
Whether or not the move will improve the child’s life.
Of course, other factors are considered as well. These include things like each party’s reasons for or against the move, if the move is financially necessary, if the non-relocating parent has complied with court-ordered child support and other financial obligations, and if either parent has a history of domestic violence or drug use.
Let Us Help
Whether you are the relocating or non-relocating parent, these requests are a serious matter that will have a significant impact on you and your child for years to come. So don’t leave it up to chance. The seasoned lawyers at The Jarbath Peña Law Group are here to help you every step of the way. We can help guide you in mediation talks with your ex wherein you attempt to reach an amicable agreement. And if you do reach an agreement, we can draft the document detailing that agreement and file it with the court. If you cannot reach an agreement, we can file a petition on your behalf and represent your interests at your court hearing. If you are the non-relocating parent and need help formulating your written objections, we can help there too. We proudly serve Coral Gables and the surrounding Miami area, so if you have questions about your custody arrangement — we have the answers. You can reach us at 305-615-1005, or contact us through our online contact form. We are here and ready to help!