In Florida, parents ordinarily have “shared parental responsibility” for the care, custody, and control of their children. Shared parental responsibility means that both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their children; the parents are required to confer with one another so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly. Shared parental responsibility implies that there will be easy access to the children by both parents- if one parent intends to relocate (leave the jurisdiction) access to the children by the non-custodial parent necessarily will be affected or compromised.
“Relocation” means a change in the location of the principal residence of a parent or other person from the time of the last order establishing or modifying timesharing. The change of location must be at least 50 miles from that residence, and must be for at least 60 consecutive days, not including a temporary absence from the principal residence for purposes of vacation, education, or the provision of health care for the child. Relocation to a place less than 50 miles from the former principal residence is permitted at any time.
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Florida’s relocation statute determines whether relocation will be permitted. The relocation statute applies to orders that were entered before the relocation law became effective if relocation of the child was not addressed in the earlier order.
Any parent (or nonparent) who has court-ordered rights to maintain the child’s residence or who has court-ordered rights of timesharing with, or access to, the child, who desires to relocate must either (1) enter into an agreement with the noncustodial parent, or (2) obtain a court order allowing the relocation. The court must approve any agreement permitting relocation for it to be effective.
If an agreement is not reached, the parent or other person who wants to relocate must file a petition to relocate with the court and serve it on the other parent and any other person who is entitled to timesharing with, or access to, the child. The petition must specify:
- The location of the intended new residence, including the state, city, and specific physical address, if known;
- The mailing address of the intended new residence;
- The home telephone number of the intended new residence, if that number is known;
- The date of the intended move or proposed relocation;
- A detailed statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation, and if one of the reasons is a job offer that has been reduced to writing, the written job offer must be attached to the petition;
- A proposed timesharing or access schedule and proposed transportation arrangements necessary to effectuate the schedule;
- Substantially the following statement (in capital letters): 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 INTERESTS OF THE CHILD, WITHOUT FURTHER NOTICE AND WITHOUT A HEARING.
The petition must be served on the other parent and any other person who is entitled to timesharing with, or access to, the child.
If there are objections to the relocation, the person objecting must serve a verified (sworn to) answer objecting to the proposed relocation within 20 days after service of the petition. The written objection must include the facts and reasons for the objection and a statement as to the amount of participation or involvement the objecting party currently has, or has had, in the life of the child.
If a parent or other person who is served with a petition to relocate fails to object, or objects in an untimely manner and fails to show good cause for the untimely objection, the court will presume that the relocation is in the child’s best interests and will enter an order approving the relocation.
If an objection to the Florida petition to relocate is filed, the court will conduct a hearing or trial (usually within 30 days) to determine whether relocation will be permitted. A temporary order allowing relocation may be entered if the court determines based on evidence presented at a preliminary hearing that there is a likelihood that it will approve the relocation at the final hearing. If temporary relocation of the child is permitted, the court may require the person relocating to provide reasonable security, financial or otherwise, and guarantee that court-ordered contact with the child will not be interrupted or interfered with by the relocating parent or other person
A presumption in favor of or against relocation does not arise even if the move will materially affect the current schedule of contact, access, and time-sharing with the nonrelocating parent or other person.
The parent or other person requesting relocation will be required to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that relocation is in the best interests of the child. If the parent or other person satisfies that burden of proof, the burden then shifts to the objecting person to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the proposed relocation is not in the child’s best interests.
In making a decision, the court will consider:
(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 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.
If a parent or other person relocates without complying with the law, he or she is subject to contempt and other proceedings to compel the return of the child as well as other possible sanctions, including incarceration. A Florida court will enforce orders from sister states regarding improper relocation and may enforce an order for the return of a child made under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.