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, or even country may be an option or opportunity for a parent after divorce because of work, job, or family considerations.
However, Florida parents should know that Florida law is strict about moving children during or after a divorce. Florida law must be followed when relocating or moving children with divorced parents otherwise the court may subject the non-compliant parent to contempt and other proceedings to compel the return of the child.
Additionally, the court can consider non-compliance in a subsequent determination or modification of a parenting plan or any time-sharing arrangement.
Florida Statute 61.13001 Governs the Relocation of Children in a Florida Divorce.
*Quick Tip: A recent change in the law allows the court to consider a modification to 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 impact the outcome of a case. Therefore, we strongly recommend talking with an experienced Florida lawyer to learn your rights.
Relocation of Minor Children: Definition
Under Florida Statute 61.13001, the child relocation law, “the relocation of minor children refers to a change in the location or principal residence of a parent or other person from his or her principal place of residence at the time of the last order establishing or modifying time-sharing. The change of location must be at least 50 miles from that residence and for at least 60 consecutive days.”
When Does Florida’s Parental Child Relocation Law Apply?
As explained in Florida Statute 61.13001(11):
This section of the child relocation statute applies:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Note: 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 proposed move or (2) the judge approves the proposed move in a formal court order.
Key Factors Considered by the Court In Relocation Cases
When assessing the potential impact on well-being and 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?)
Child Support, Custody, and Travel Expenses
Child support and 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 ability to bear increased visitation costs.
An example of this can be seen in re B.T.G., App. 2 Dist.,993 So.2d 1140 (2008). The evidence didn’t support a trial court’s finding that the father couldn’t afford the cost of the children’s travel expenses for visitation after the mother moved across the country.
In this case, the father never testified that the travel expense payments were beyond his means. The mother testified that she was willing to pay part of the travel costs.
Relocation During Divorce Proceedings
How can you relocate with the kids during a divorce in Florida? Suppose you want to move with the children before your Florida divorce is finalized. In that case, you need to discuss this with your divorce attorney, as you may need the court’s approval for you to do so.
That’s because a temporary order may have been issued by the judge, including a judge’s order stating you cannot leave with the children unless certain conditions are met. For example, you have the court’s permission 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.
Relocation After Finalizing a Florida Divorce
Child and parental relocation after finalizing a divorce in Florida is a significant decision that requires legal consideration. Here is what you may expect from different scenarios.
Agreement Between Ex-Spouses
The easiest way to achieve compliance with Florida law on moving a minor child 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.
An example of this scenario occurred in Gimonge vs Gimonge, App. 5 Distr.,239 So.3d 1275 (2018). In that case, both parents came to a written agreement that the court approved. This meant the mother didn’t have to file a separate petition to relocate. The agreement defined the father’s time-sharing and transportation arrangements.
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.
If there is no agreement between the parents, the parent seeking to relocate more than 50 miles from their current residence must petition for relocation. The court will then consider the petition and determine if the child’s best interests are being considered. See Amiot v. Olmstead, Fla.App. 1 Dist.,2021 WL 1884017 (2021).
What Happens if There Is No Agreement or a Parenting Plan Isn’t Followed?
Under the relocation statute the “parent or other person seeking relocation must file a petition to relocate and serve it on the other parent and every other person entitled access to or time-sharing with the child.”
The petition to relocate must include a description and location of the new residence, the mailing address if not the same as the physical address, the home telephone number, the date of the intended move or relocation, and a detailed statement citing the reasons for the proposed relocation along with a revised post-relocation schedule of time-sharing and transportation arrangements.
In Brooks vs Brooks, 164 So.3d 162 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015), the mother (the moving parent) violated an existing time-sharing plan, which led to the father (non moving parent) asking the court to hold the mother in contempt of court because she failed to file a petition to relocate pursuant to section 61.13001 of the Florida Statutes.
The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws developed the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) to deter parental kidnapping and promote a more uniform jurisdiction of interstate child custody and visitation cases.
This act is a model law adopted by most US states and was created to resolve conflicts arising from different state laws while ensuring custody orders are enforced effectively across state lines.
Key provisions of the UCCJEA include exclusive jurisdiction to establish that only one state has jurisdiction over conflicting child custody orders, the home state rule that says primary jurisdiction lies with the child’s home state, temporary emergency jurisdiction in the case of an emergency or immediate danger, enforces child custody determinations, and ensures cooperation among the states.
Florida adopted the UCCJEA, and it is codified in Chapter 61, Section 61.501-61.542 of the Florida Statutes.
The Best Interests of the Child Standard
Many factors can come into play as the court determines the children’s best interests — 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.
To do so without following Florida law, both statutory and case law, may mean that you can be held in contempt of a court order and that your spouse will have strong arguments to their advantage in the pending divorce action on custody and support matters (including any subsequent determination or modification of a parenting plan or any time-sharing arrangement.)
How the Court Determines the Child’s Best Interests
In child relocation cases, the court’s main concern is determining what would be in the child’s best interests. They will carefully consider each of the factors below before making a decision.
The Reason for Relocation
If relocation is proposed, the court will examine the reasons behind it. For example, is the parent moving for a legitimate reason, like an employment opportunity, educational advantage for the child, or a significant change in circumstances that would ultimately benefit the child’s well-being?
Impact on Parent-Child Relationship
Next is the potential impact a relocation will have on the child’s relationship with each parent. It takes a closer look at the ability of each parent to maintain meaningful contact and the willingness of the relocating parent to facilitate and encourage ongoing communication and visitation.
Stability and Continuity
Maintaining stability in a child’s life is also important. Certain aspects of the child’s life, including their ties to the community, relationships with extended family members, friends, and other important connections, are weighed against the potential benefits of the move proposed by the relocating parent.
Impact on Child’s Emotional and Physical Well-Being
Another key aspect that will be examined is the availability of support systems, healthcare facilities, and access to resources pertaining to any specialized needs the child may have if they relocate.
Notification and Consent Requirements
In relocation cases involving minor children in Florida, providing proper notice to the other parent is critical. Proper notice ensures transparency and allows the other parent to be involved in decisions pertaining to the children. It protects the rights of the child and non relocating parent.
In Florida, the consent requirements for relocating with minor children depend on the distance of the move. If the parent intends to relocate less than 50 miles from their current residence, they must notify the other parent. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the consent of the non relocating parent is required.
If the parent is moving more than 50 miles away or out of state, they have to provide the other parent with written notice at least 60 days before the move.
Modifying Existing Parenting Plans
Suppose you have an existing parenting plan or custody order in Florida, and one parent wishes to relocate with the child. In that case, that parent must modify the parenting plan due to the relocation in accordance with the statutory requirements.
Here are the steps one should take to modify an existing parenting plan:
- Mediation: This is optional, but both parents should attempt to resolve their issues through mediation. A neutral third party helps the parents agree on relocation and any necessary changes to the parenting plan.
- Petition for Modification: If no agreement is made in mediation or one parent refuses to participate, the parent seeking to relocate has to file a petition for modification with the court. The petition needs to include any and all proposed changes to the parenting plan and the reason for relocation.
- Notice to the Other Parent: We discussed notifications earlier. This is when the parent seeking relocation needs to provide the other parent with notice. The notice must comply with the requirements outlined in Florida Statutes Section 61.13001 and be served through certified mail, return receipt requested, or by personal service.
- Objection: If the non relocating parent objects, a written objection should be filed with the court with reasons why the relocation is not in the child’s best interest. The court then considers the child’s best interests before approving the proposed relocation and modifying the parenting plan.
- Parenting Plan Modification Hearing: When an objection is filed, the court will schedule a hearing to consider the petition. Both parents will have the opportunity to present evidence and state their arguments.
- Court Decision: And then comes the court decision. If the court approves relocation, they will issue a written modified parenting plan addressing the new custody and visitation arrangements.
Seeking Legal Assistance
Each year, more than 1,000,000 children are affected by divorce. It is also not uncommon for one or both parents to move out of the state that the family resided in after the dissolution of marriage.
Child relocation cases in Florida can be complex and emotionally charged. For these reasons, you want to seek legal advice and assistance from an experienced Florida attorney to help you navigate the process more effectively and ensure your parental rights are upheld and protected.
What Should You Do?
As a parent, you want to do what is best for your child. So, when considering child relocation before or after a divorce, be sure that you are prioritizing the child’s best interests during the entire process.
Also, it is wise to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney. Most experienced divorce attorneys will provide you with a free consultation either in-person or over the phone.
We represent clients in child support and child custody matters in both Broward County and Miami-Dade County including the communities of Hallandale, Hollywood, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Weston, Davie, North Miami Beach, and Dania Beach.
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