Relocating with a Child
Moving to a new home usually produces competing emotions of nervousness and excitement. Children are especially trepidatious about moving if it means starting a new school. People rarely live in the same home for an extended period of time in today’s world, and moving to a new city or State is much more common due to the job culture in America. However, there are rules that control when a parent may relocate with a child to a new area if he/she shares custody with another adult. These restrictions exist to protect the non-relocating parent from losing connection with the child, which may harm the parent/child relationship in the long term. Thus, parents seeking to relocate will need to plan to ask the other parent for permission, and perhaps, the need to petition a court to gain permission to move. The repercussions of not following the rules can be severe and result in the modification of the parenting plan in favor of the other parent, so acting without authorization is not a good idea. Criminal charges can also follow for interference with child custody. A discussion of when permission needs to be obtained, and how a court evaluates a request for relocation, will follow below.
When Is a Relocation Regulated?
Not all moves trigger the need to get permission – just those that are far enough away to infringe the parenting rights of the other parent. In Florida, that happens when the move is 50 or more miles away, is expected to last 60 or more days, and does not relate to a temporary relocation for vacation, education, or medical care for the child. Thus, moves that are less than 50 miles or are less than 60 days do not require permission and can be made without the other parent’s consent, though his/her cooperation is always in the best interests of the child.
Getting Authorization to Move
If the parents agree to the relocation, all they need to do to comply with the law is execute a written and signed agreement that indicates the relocation is consensual, describes how the non-relocating parent will exercise parenting time, and provisions for transportation to allow for access and time-sharing. If there is no agreement, the parent seeking to relocate will need to file a petition seeking permission with the family court division. The petition must include an explanation as to why the relocation is necessary and a proposed time-sharing arrangement to account for this move. However, unless the other parent responds to the petition with an objection, the relocation will be presumed to be in the best interests of the child. If an objection is submitted, the court must then review a number of factors to decide if the relocation should be permitted, including:
- The quality of the child’s relationship with each parent;
- The age and needs of the child, and whether the relocation will have a negative impact on the child’s wellbeing or development;
- The feasibility of preserving the relationship with the non-relocating parent;
- The child’s preference, depending upon age and maturity;
- Whether the relocation will improve the parent’s and child’s quality of life;
- The reason for the objection to relocation;
- Whether the relocation will improve the economic circumstances of the parent; and
- Whether the relocation is requested in good faith, and whether the objecting parent has fulfilled their financial obligations to the child and former spouse.
The primary concern will always be the best interests of the child, so if the move would enhance the child’s life, a court is likely to approve it.
Get Legal Advice
Balancing the need to move for better opportunities and the relationship a child has with the other parent is difficult. If you have questions about relocation, both as a seeker or objector to the move, call the experienced family law attorneys at Donna Hung Law Group for guidance. Relocation triggers a lot of legal and practical consequences, and to ensure you will not create unnecessary problems, get legal advice about your options. Contact our Orlando family law attorneys at (407) 999-0099 for a consultation.