Florida Child Custody and Relocation Laws

What happens when the custodial parent decides to move away with the child(ren)? Find out.

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Gavel and Scales

In Florida, a custodial parent who wants to move with the child more than 50 miles away, for any period longer than 60 days, must notify the other parent before moving. If the noncustodial parent agrees to the move, the parents must file a written agreement with the court. If the parents can’t agree, the judge will hold a hearing and decide whether to allow the move. If the court views the move as negatively impacting the children or their relationship with the other parent, the judge may not approve the relocation.

If Both Parents Agree to the Move

If both parents agree to the move, they may file a written agreement with the court that includes the noncustodial parent’s consent to the move, any proposal to modify the visitation schedule, and any arrangements the parents have made for transportation in order to effect the visitation. The court will also require that the move be approved by anyone else with visitation rights (such as a grandparent).

The relocating parent may want to offer longer periods of visitation be given to the other parent. This could be extended time during spring or summer breaks and will be seen in a favorable light by the family court judge.

Even if the parents agree on everything, the court must approve the relocation proposal before the custodial parent may move.

If One Parent Objects

If the noncustodial parent doesn’t agree to the move, the custodial parent must file a petition for relocation with the court. The petition must include:

  • The physical location, mailing address, and telephone number of the new home (if known)
  • The date of the proposed move
  • The specific reasons for the move (a parent who is moving to accept a job offer that has been put in writing must include a copy of the offer with the petition)
  • A proposal for parenting and visitation schedules after the move, along with transportation arrangements, and
  • A notice telling the other parent how to object to the petition and the consequences of failing to do so.

If the noncustodial parent fails to respond to the petition, the judge will presume the move is in the child’s best interests and will allow it, absent good cause to do otherwise. If the noncustodial parent responds, the court will hold a hearing or trial to decide the issue.

Factors the Court Will Consider

Family court judges in Florida (and every other state) always rule in favor of what is in the children’s best interests. If moving away from friends and family will be a traumatic experience for them, the court may not allow the move. Parents who want to relocate and obtain the court’s permission must make a compelling case to convince the judge that relocating will have a positive effect on the family. Some factors that the judge will consider are:

  • the child’s relationship with the parent who wants to move, the other parent, siblings, and other people who are important to the child
  • how the move will impact the child’s mental, physical and emotional development, taking into consideration the child’s age and any special needs the child has
  • if the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent can be preserved by making alternate arrangements for visitation
  • the preference of the child, if appropriate
  • how the relocation will enhance both the lives of the parent and child
  • the reasons for relocation, such as better educational or employment opportunities
  • the reasons why the noncustodial parent objects to the relocation, and
  • any history of domestic abuse.

A parent who wants to move in order to deprive the noncustodial parent of visitation rights or to get revenge on the ex-spouse will not fare well in court, nor will a noncustodial parent who objects to the move but has failed to meet other parental obligations (such as child or spousal support) or failed to exercise existing visitation rights.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

Particularly if you are the noncustodial parent and you object to the relocation, you should consider consulting with a lawyer right away. You have a short deadline to object to the custodial parent’s proposed move, then you’ll have to contend with a court hearing or even a trial. Depending on how far away the other parent wants to move, your relationship to your child might suffer significantly if you lose. In these circumstances, it makes good sense to get some legal help and make sure you are doing everything you can to protect your rights.

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