The main legal issues that arise when a parent wants to move with a child during or after a divorce are those balancing possible harm to the child with potential benefit to the child. The child may be harmed by reduced contact and involvement with the other parent, but may also benefit from improved financial circumstances, new educational opportunities, or greater support from extended family members in a distant location.
Because Florida law presumes that frequent and meaningful contact with both parents is best for the child, anything that prevents or reduces that parental contact must be carefully considered.
Florida Statue 61.00 13 requires that a relocating parent must notify the other parent and must obtain written agreement from the other parent or an order of the court before relocating the child more than 50 miles.
Relocation by Agreement of the Parents:
If the parents agree that the child should relocate, they should enter into a written agreement that spells out the details of the non-moving parent’s consent, the plan for time sharing between the child and the non-moving parent, and the transportation arrangements that will be followed to ensure contact between the child and the non-moving parent.
If the agreement is made while the divorce case is pending, the agreement must be filed with the court. The agreement will stand unless either parent changes his or her mind and requests a court hearing within ten (10) days after filing the agreement.
Without a written agreement, the non-moving parent can ask the court to have the child picked up and returned at any time.
When the Parents Do Not Agree:
When parents do not agree, the court must be involved, whether the move is to occur while the divorce case is pending or afterward. The parent wishing to relocate must petition the court and convince the court that relocation is in the best interest of the. child using the ten (10) specific factors listed in the relocation statute and the twenty-one (21) specific factors that define the “best interests of the child” elsewhere in the statutes. If the non-moving parent objects to the petition in writing within twenty (20) days, he or she must then be prepared to present convincing evidence to the court that the proposed relocation is NOT in the best interest of the child.
The parent desiring to relocate with the child must always give legal notice to the non-moving parent, including: a proposed schedule for time-sharing and transportation, a description of the location of the intended new residence, mailing address, home telephone number, and date of the intended move, along with a detailed statement of the reasons for the move and a copy of any written job offer that is used as a reason for the move.
The notice to the other parent must follow the specifications of the law precisely, and must be served upon the other parent by the correct legal process. If the non-moving parent does not object within twenty (20) days, the relocation will be allowed without a hearing unless the court determines that the relocation is not in the best interests of the child.
Relocation can be temporary – while the divorce case is still pending – subject to a final decision when the judgment dissolving the divorce is entered by the court. There are special rules for temporary relocation.
Special Note for Orange County and Osceola County:
After the divorce case begins, neither parent may change the residence of the children from the school zone in which the children’s home is currently located without written agreement signed by both parties or an order of the Court, and neither party may change a child’s assigned school zone or day care arrangements without the written agreement of both parties or an order of the Court.