Relocation and Child Custody
Divorces and separations are difficult for all parties involved, particularly if there is any type of custody dispute. While it is perhaps in the best interest of a child to remain in his or her primary residence and experience as little disruption in day to day life as possible, this is not always practical. Sometimes, one parent will need to relocate to a new location with the child in order to obtain better job prospects or educational opportunities. In such instances, a family court will need to approve the relocation before it can take place. If you are involved in a custody dispute and one of the parties may be relocating, it is important that you contact an experienced family attorney who can help explain your legal options.Relocation
A relocation is a change in the location of the principal residence of a custodial parent. If the change of location is at least 50 miles from the original residence and for at least 60 consecutive days, the custodial parent must seek the court’s approval before relocating. In Florida, there are two approved methods of relocation; by agreement and by petition.Relocation by Agreement
In Florida, if both parents or guardians agree to a child’s relocation, they must sign a written agreement that:
- Reflects consent to the relocation;
- Defines a time-sharing schedule for the non-relocating parent; and
- Describes transportation arrangements related to access or time-sharing.
If there is an existing judgment concerning the child’s residence or time-sharing schedule, the parties will need to seek a court order for the ratification of the agreement.Petition to Relocate
If there is no prior agreement to relocate, a parent seeking relocation must file a petition and serve it upon the other parent. The petition must be signed under oath and must include:
- A description of the location of the new residence;
- The mailing address;
- The home telephone number;
- The date of the relocation;
- A detailed statement of the specific reasons for the relocation; and
- A proposal for the revised time-sharing schedule.
An objection to the relocation must be made in writing, filed with the court, and served on the other parent within 20 days of receiving the petition.Factors Determining Relocation
The court will evaluate the following factors in determining whether the relocation is in the best interests of the child:
- The nature of the child’s relationships with his or her parents;
- The age and developmental stage of the child;
- The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child;
- The child’s preference;
- Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the child and the parent seeking the relocation;
- The reasons each parent is seeking or opposing the relocation;
- The current employment and economic circumstances of each parent;
- Whether the relocation is sought in good faith;
- The career and other opportunities available to the objecting parent if the relocation occurs; and
- Any history of substance abuse or domestic violence.
Based on an analysis of these factors, the court will either grant or deny the petition of relocation.
Custody disputes involving relocation can be emotional and stressful. The services of an experienced attorney can be invaluable in reaching an amicable solution. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.