Relocation of Minor Children: Moving With the Kids During or After a Florida Divorce

After a divorce, things change. Moving to a different town, city, state - even country - may be an option or opportunity for a parent after divorce because of work or job or family considerations. However, Florida parents should be aware that Florida law is strict about moving children during or after a divorce; Florida law must be followed in the relocation or moving of children with divorced parents.

Florida Statute 61.001 Governs the Relocation of Children in a Florida Divorce

In fact, the Florida Legislature has passed a specific statute on this situation, detailing the legal requirements that Florida parents must abide by if they want to move with their kids to a different location than their residence at the time of the divorce being finalized. Florida law does not allow a parent with a child under the age of 18 to move or relocate unless (1) there is a written agreement from the other parent supporting the move or (2) the judge approves the move in a formal Court order.

What is considered a relocation under Florida law? Any move that is at least 50 miles away from the principal residence as identified in the divorce paperwork, and where the parent and children have or will reside for at least 60 days in a row (60 consecutive days or two months).

Child support as well as child custody issues must be addressed in a relocation. For instance, there will be the matter of transportation costs associated with visitation after a move: the child support award may be adjusted to accommodate transportation costs with consideration of each spouse's net income and their ability to bear increased visitation costs.

Florida Statute 61.001 governs the relocation of children in Florida with divorced parents. It is a somewhat complicated law, and by definition applies differently to different situations. As explained in Florida Statute 61.001(11):

(a) This section applies:

1. To orders entered before October 1, 2009, if the existing order defining custody, primary residence, the parenting plan, time-sharing, or access to or with the child does not expressly govern the relocation of the child.
2. To an order, whether temporary or permanent, regarding the parenting plan, custody, primary residence, time-sharing, or access to the child entered on or after October 1, 2009.
3. To any relocation or proposed relocation, whether permanent or temporary, of a child during any proceeding pending on October 1, 2009, wherein the parenting plan, custody, primary residence, time-sharing, or access to the child is an issue.

(b) To the extent that a provision of this section conflicts with an order existing on October 1, 2009, this section does not apply to the terms of that order which expressly govern relocation of the child or a change in the principal residence address of a parent or other person.

How Can You Relocate with The Kids During or After a Divorce in Florida?

1. Agreement Between Ex-Spouses

The easiest way to achieve compliance with Florida law on moving children after a Florida divorce is to have both parents agree to the relocation. This agreement between mother and father as ex-spouses must be in writing and signed.

2. Moving the Children Without an Agreement From Your Ex-Spouse

If the parents cannot agree on the relocation, then the court will decide on the move. The parent will need a Court Order to legally relocate.  Here, the judge will look at the child (or children) and their best interests. In considering the best interests of the child in relocating, their relationship with both parents will be a factor along with things like their maturity level (age, development stage) and how their life may be better or worse with the move (will they be going to better schools? will they be nearer extended family, like grandparents? will there be more income available to meet their needs?)

Many factors can come into play as the Court determines the best interests of the children — and expert evaluations can be included in an evidentiary hearing on this issue. Fights over whether or not a parent can move with the children can be tremendous court battles, similar to full-fledged trials, with witnesses and expert testimony involved as both sides present their arguments on whether or not the court should approve the relocation as requested by the parent (even if the parent has a new job or a career promotion).

3. Relocation with the Kids Before the Divorce is Final

If you want to move with the children before your Florida divorce is finalized, then you need to discuss this with your Florida divorce attorney and your Florida family law lawyer may need to get the Court's approval in order for you to do so. Temporary Orders may have been issued by the Judge that include a judge's order that you cannot leave with the children unless certain conditions are met (like you have the Court's okay or the written agreement of the non-custodial parent). This impacts permanent moves as well as things like out-of-state trips for vacations or holidays.

To do so without following Florida legal requirements may mean that you can be held in contempt of a court order and that your spouse will have strong arguments to his or her advantage in the pending divorce action on matters involving both custody and support.

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