Divorce brings about the restructuring of families in which parents have to continue to cooperate and communicate long after the dissolution of the marriage. One of the greatest challenges involves the relocation of one parent after the divorce. One of the divorced parents usually goes from seeing their children on a daily basis to seeing their children on alternate weekends, holidays, and school breaks. Relocation often requires that the time spent with both parents is even more diminished as a move can often mean seeing your children four times per year or less.
Florida Statute § 61.13001 requires advance notice. If the relocating parent is permanently moving more than 50 miles from the existing residence of the parent trying to move, the Petition to Relocate must be filed first. This notice, among other things, must state the new address and phone number, the date of the move, the reason for the move, and a plan for the new time sharing schedule. This notice provision applies to parents who are subject to an existing court order or who have a pending dissolution action. It does not have to be a divorce but can apply to any time sharing order involving children.
Many parents ask the question, What will happen to me if I move before filing my Petition? If notice is not given, the Court could can hold the relocating parent in contempt, consider additional time sharing to the non-relocating parent as “make up time,” deny the move, or Order the child be returned in an Emergency Pick Up Order.
What can the non relocating parent do to protect their rights? If they agree to the relocation and the new terms, the parties can enter into a written agreement for relocation. The Court will then sign the Order as an Agreed Order without a hearing in most cases. If relocation is objected to by the non-relocating parent, that parent must file a written objection with the Court and serve a copy on the relocating parent within 20 days of service. Like the petition to relocate, this objection is very technical and must state a basis for an objection and all of the reasons supporting that basis including the extent of that parent’s involvement with the children.
If the parties cannot agree upon the relocation, the Court will have to determine what is appropriate. Among other things, the Court will consider the family ties to the relocating parent, the age and needs of child, substitute visitation arrangements, the children’s preferences, quality of life, reasons for the move or objection, employment opportunities for the relocating parent, good faith, employment opportunities for the objecting parent, and any history of substance abuse or domestic violence. There is no presumption for or against the relocation.
Any relocation must be supported by the best interests of the children. There are always good reasons for and against relocation and such decisions can be difficult for the Court. The reality is that the children need both parents to fully develop into happy and healthy adults. Parents should be urged to communicate and make these important decisions themselves if possible before Court intervention. It never is easy for a parent to balance future relationships, careers, or opportunities with the need for the children to have meaningful contact with the other parent, but we must try.