The Child Relocation Process: Notice and Consent
In this article, we’ll break down the following:
- Understanding Child Relocation
- Factors to Consider When Filing a Relocation Petition
- The Consent Process
- Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Legal Considerations and Court Proceedings
- Florida Case Law on Child Relocation
Did you know that up to 50% of single-parent households in Florida have underage children? When spouses with minor children divorce, establishing a successful co-parenting relationship can be difficult. It is even harder when tumultuous divorce negotiations have strained the relationship.
A bad situation can be made worse when one parent wants to relocate with the child, and the other parent opposes it.
Florida Statutes Section 61.13001 addresses, in great detail, the issue of child relocation. This law prevents a custodial parent from moving with the child more than 50 miles away without notice and consent from the non-custodial parent or the court. Here’s everything you need to know.
Understanding Child Relocation
Florida law defines relocation as when a custodial parent and the child move to a new location 50 miles away from their primary residence for at least 60 consecutive days.
When a parent moves away with their child, the non-relocating parent may be unable to continue visitation. It infringes on their right to maintain meaningful contact with their child. As a result, the move can take a toll on the child’s social-emotional well-being and may show up as a decline in their social skills and emerging behavioral problems.
For instance, teens usually have a harder time adjusting to a new neighborhood, new school, new friends, etc., than infants, toddlers, and prepubescent children. The child’s non-relocating parent, step-siblings, and extended family may also be devastated by the relocation, even if the court finds the move in the child’s best interests.
Quick Tip: A recent change in the law allows the court to consider modifying the time-sharing schedule when a parent relocates within 50 miles of the child. Therefore, existing statutory language is likely to change. This is why we say these articles are for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Florida law is always changing, and the facts of each case are unique, which can affect the outcome of a case. Therefore, we highly recommend consulting an experienced Florida lawyer to learn your rights.
Reasons for Relocation
The decision to relocate can be made in good faith or bad faith. A move prompted by job opportunities, educational opportunities, military duty, family circumstances, health issues, or similar valid reasons is made in good faith.
A move driven by the desire to conceal signs of child abuse, hatred of the other parent, or a threat to manipulate the other parent into increasing the child support payments can be viewed as a bad faith reason.
Regardless of the custodial parent’s motive to justify relocating with their child, they must provide written notice of the proposed relocation to the non-relocating parent. Notice is important for several reasons:
- Respect for legal rights and due process: A parent who relocates with a child without providing written notice may be held in contempt, compelled to return the child to their principal residence, and may even result in a modification of the existing parenting plan or time-sharing schedule. It protects the rights of the child and the non-custodial parent.
- Open communication maintains transparency and respect in co-parenting relationships by allowing all parties to discuss the issue and work out a new parenting arrangement.
- Protects the child’s well-being: It ensures that the child maintains an ongoing relationship with the non-relocating parent and that the move will be in the child’s best interests.
- Ensures a fair and informed process: The notice allows the non-relocating parent to object to the move and allows the courts to intervene if both parties cannot agree on whether the proposed relocation is in the child’s best interests.
Factors to Consider When Filing a Relocation Petition
Florida law has no presumption in favor of or against a child relocating with their parent. If one parent files a petition for relocation with a child and the other parent contests this request, the courts will make a determination based on what is deemed to be in the best interests of the child. Some factors that might play into the decision include:
Career Opportunities Available to the Objecting Parent
Each parent is responsible for financially supporting their child. They should be able to meet their basic needs and anything else they might need to ensure they have a great quality of life.
When evaluating a petition for relocation, Florida courts will consider the career and job opportunities available to both the relocating parent and the objecting parent. A determination can then be made on whether a move would help or hurt the child in the short and long term.
Child’s Age and Developmental Stage
The child’s age and the stage of their physical and emotional development also play a major role in the court’s decision on whether to grant a petition for relocation. If the move will likely hurt the child’s educational, emotional, and social development, the presiding judge will not approve the relocation request.
If the child is old enough and capable of making an informed decision on whether they want to relocate, the court may take their preference into consideration. On the other hand, if the child is too young or immature despite their age, the court will render its judgment with little to no input from the child.
Child’s Relationship With Each Parent
Florida courts consider the quality, nature, duration, and extent of the child’s relationship with the relocating and non-relocating parent when determining whether to grant a petition for relocation. They also consider the child’s relationship with their siblings, half-siblings, extended family, and other significant people in their life.
Current Economic and Employment Circumstances of Each Parent
A judge will evaluate each parent’s current economic and employment situation to determine whether the proposed relocation will improve these circumstances for both the child and the parent. In making a determination, the judge will also consider the economic and employment situation of the non-relocating parent to evaluate whether the relocation will be in the best interests of the child.
Feasibility of Maintaining a Relationship With the Objecting Parent
The court will also examine how feasible it is to preserve the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent through the proposed parenting plan and time-sharing arrangement.
In making their determination, the judge will consider the financial capability of each party, the logistics involved in traveling back and forth, and whether those factors are sufficient for fostering a continued, meaningful relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent.
Reason for Relocating
The other thing courts consider is the intent behind the request to relocate. Is the parent’s petition to move in good faith? To what extent has the objecting parent fulfilled their financial obligation to the child and the parent seeking relocation?
Are they up-to-date with their child support and alimony payments? Have they kept up with their marital debt obligations? The presiding judge will consider these factors when evaluating whether relocation would be in the child’s best interest.
History of Domestic Violence or Substance Abuse
A judge will also consider a history of domestic violence or substance abuse by either parent as defined in Florida Statutes Section 741.28 or meets the criteria provided in Section 39.806(1)(d) when deciding whether to grant a petition for relocation. They will consider the severity of such conduct and assess the petition based on whether the errant parent has successfully attempted rehabilitation.
Quality of Life of the Child and Their Parent
The court will seek to establish whether the planned move will enhance the child’s and their parent’s quality of life. Some factors that would play into the evaluation include the educational opportunities available to the child at the new location, potential emotional gains, support system availability, financial benefits, etc.
The Consent Process
According to Florida Statutes Section 61.13001, if a parent attempts to relocate with a child without seeking approval from the other parent or fails to comply with a court order barring such an action, they will be held in contempt, compelled to return the child to their principal residence, and may even result in a modification of the existing parenting plan or time-sharing schedule.
Here’s an overview of the consent process involved in child relocation cases as outlined in Florida Statutes Section 61.13001.
Written Notice at Least 60 Days Before the Proposed Relocation
The relocating parent or legal guardian must file a petition to relocate and serve the non-relocating party with written notice at least 60 days before the proposed relocation date. The petition and notice must include the following information:
- A description of the new residence;
- Physical and mailing address (if different from the physical address);
- The home telephone number of the new residence (if known);
- The proposed date of the relocation;
- A statement from the relocating party with detailed reasons for the relocation. If the reason is based on a job offer, the petition must have the written offer attached;
- The proposed revised parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule post-relocation. It should also include a proposal detailing the transport arrangements required to facilitate time-sharing or access to the child.
Consent or Objection From Non-relocating Parent Within 20 Days
Once the non-relocating parent receives the notice, they have 20 days to file a written response with the court and serve it to the petitioner. If this period lapses before the non-relocating parent objects, the court will approve the relocation petition without a hearing, allowing the parent or relocating parent to move with the child. The court will presume the relocation is in the child’s best interest.
If the non-custodial parent files their objection within the stipulated 20-day window, a trial or temporary hearing will be held to obtain court permission for the proposed relocation.
Objection and Petition
The party objecting to the relocation is required to file a response detailing the following:
- Their reasons for objecting to the relocation;
- Facts supporting those reasons; and
- A statement reflecting their level of involvement in the child’s life.
Depending on the specifics of the case, the court may grant a temporary order barring the child’s relocation, compelling the custodial parent to return the child if they had relocated without consent, or providing remedial relief.
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof in child relocation cases requires the petitioner to show that the proposed move is in the child’s best interests. In other words, the relocating parent or legal guardian has to show by a preponderance of evidence why relocating with the child is necessary for the child’s physical, emotional, mental, educational, and social well-being.
If the petitioner meets the required burden of proof, the burden shifts to the objecting parent. The respondent then has to show, by a preponderance of evidence as well, why the proposed relocation is not in the child’s best interest.
When making a determination, Florida courts always base their decision on the best interests of the child. The judge will consider how the proposed move will affect the child’s mental, physical, and emotional health, the parent’s reason for relocating, and the non-relocating parent’s reasons for objecting.
At its discretion, the court may approve or deny the petition for relocation based on whether it deems the proposed relocation to be in the best interests of the child. The challenges and potential complications in obtaining consent come down to whether the court is satisfied with the reasons for the relocation and if those reasons serve the child’s best interests—all factors considered.
Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution
Parents can avoid the stress and expense of a court hearing by creating a feasible arrangement through mediation and alternative dispute resolution channels. Each party can then deliberate their respective points of view, their interests, and the best interests of the child.
A child relocation mediator can foster productive dialogue between all parties and guide the process toward an agreement and arrangement that everyone is satisfied with. They can suggest a workable parenting plan, devise a time-sharing schedule, propose virtual and physical visitation arrangements, and help iron out the kinks in keeping the child in touch with their extended family.
A successful mediation results in a fair and equitable relocation agreement that is fair to both parties and, more importantly, the child. Once this is done, the agreement can be incorporated into the parenting plan and submitted to the court for approval by a judge.
Legal Considerations and Court Proceedings
If you plan to relocate with your child or oppose a proposed relocation, having an attorney guide you through the process is always a good idea. They will explain to you your rights and obligations with regard to the case and provide professional legal advice to help you negotiate a fair agreement. They can also represent you in court if required.
The potential outcome of a court decision in a child relocation case can either be that the child is allowed to relocate or the petition to relocate is denied. If the relocation petition is granted, the court will order a new parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule and travel plan that allows the non-custodial parent to maintain an ongoing relationship with their child.
Florida Case Law on Child Relocation
Rolison v. Rolison, 144 So. 3d 610 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2014)
In its ruling, the First District Court of Appeal held that the Florida relocation statute only applies when one parent’s primary residence changes from the location listed in the last parental plan. Since the child’s mother was already in Georgia at the time, the father filed the pending dissolution action and emergency motion compelling her to return the children, and because the relocation statute did not apply, she did not have to seek permission from him or the court to move there.
Guizzardi v. Guizzardi, 89 So. 3d 967 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2012)
In the older relocation statute, if a parenting agreement specifically prohibited relocation, the parent or legal guardian seeking to relocate had to prove that a significant change in their circumstances had occurred to justify the move. The newer statute has no such standard.
A trial court found that a divorced mother who petitioned the court to relocate with her minor child met the criteria provided in the newer, revised statute, as opposed to the older one in the original custody order. The trial court did not need to reverse the original order to grant the relocation request. The newer statute encompassed all the criteria in the older statute and more.
Open dialogue and cooperation between parents ensure they are on the same page to provide the best possible parenting for their children. Open communication is especially important when one parent wishes to relocate with the child. It ensures that both parties work collaboratively to develop a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule that protects the rights of the child and the non-custodial parent.
If both parties can’t reach a workable agreement through dialogue, mediation, or alternative dispute resolution channels, Florida Statutes 61.13001 covers all the bases. It ensures the relocating party notifies the non-custodial parent of the proposed relocation and prohibits them from moving the child without consent from the other parent or the court. That way, the child’s best interests are always at the forefront.
If you want to relocate with your child or object to the other parent’s proposed relocation, then it is a good idea to consult with an experienced family law attorney to explore your legal options. Most experienced attorneys will provide you with a free consultation either in-person or over the phone. Get in touch with us now.
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