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Child Relocation

In Okaloosa and Walton County

We live in a word where people are frequently asked to relocate as a condition of their employment and for other purposes. Parents of children in Florida are no different.

 

In fact, in some circumstances, relocating with children can serve the best interests of those children. However, if one parent seeks to move their children a long distance away from the other parent, the relocation can become extremely complicated for both parents.

Under Florida law, a relocating parent needs one of two things in order to relocate with minor children who are subject to a Florida parenting plan: 1) the consent of the non-relocating parent or 2) a court order authorizing the relocation. In Florida, parental relocation is addressed in Florida Statute § 61.13001. According to this statute, a “relocation” is defined as:

“[A] change in the location of the 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, or at the time of filing the pending action to establish or modify time-sharing. The change of location must be at least 50 miles from that residence, and for at least 60 consecutive days not including a temporary absence from the principal residence for purposes of vacation, education, or the provision of health care for the child.”

Therefore, if a parent with custodial rights plans to move more than 50 miles away, for at least 60 days, that parent has to obtain the consent of the other parent or seek a court order authorizing the relocation. Otherwise, if the parent is moving less than 50 miles and/or for less than 60 days, neither consent nor a court order is required.

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Consent to Child Relocation – Two Methods

We have extensive experience representing countless clients who have sought to relocate with their children, and countless clients who sought to prevent their children from being relocated. Whatever your course, we can guide you through the complex legal standards that must be met in child relocation cases. We have offices in Okaloosa and Walton County, Florida to serve clients throughout Northwest Florida. Contact us to schedule your initial consultation today.

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Written Agreement:

The parties can enter into a written agreement, signed by both parents and any other individuals who have the right to access the child. This agreement, known as a Consent Order for Relocation, must be filed with the court and ratified by a judge. The agreement must include:

  • The consent of each party with signatures
  • A new long-distance time sharing schedule
  • Provisions to govern transportation of the children after the relocation has occurred

As a practical matter, consent to relocation is very rare, for an obvious reason. The non-relocating party is threatened with losing any weekend timesharing that they might have been entitled to because it simply isn’t feasible from a long distance. Other short holidays, like Halloween or Easter, can also become impractical due to the demands of travel over such a short period of time. Therefore, if the children are relocated, then the non-relocating parent stands to lose the bulk of their time sharing rights. This will typically also result in an increase in child support due to the relative lack of overnight time sharing for the non-relocating parent.

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Implied Consent and Ex Parte Order:

Barring a written agreement, the relocating parent must file a petition to relocate with the children. The non-relocating parent has 20 days to file an objection to the proposed relocation. If no response is filed, the relocating parent can seek an ex parte court order that allows the relocation to occur based on the lack of a timely response to the petition. This is a form of implied consent (else the objecting party should have filed a timely objection).

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Relocation Approved by Courts

If the parents do not reach an agreement regarding the relocation, then a trial will be held and the judge will decide whether or not the move is in the child’s best interest. Witnesses will testify and hard evidence will be offered. The petitioning party will bear the burden of proof to show that the relocation is in the child’s best interest. The evidence should focus on a set of factors set out in Florida Statute § 61.13001:

(a) The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child’s relationship with the parent or other person proposing to relocate with the child and with the non-relocating parent, other persons, siblings, half-siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life.

(b) The age and developmental stage of the child, the needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child.

(c) The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating parent or other person and the child through substitute arrangements that take into consideration the logistics of contact, access, and time-sharing, as well as the financial circumstances of the parties; whether those factors are sufficient to foster a continuing meaningful relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent or other person; and the likelihood of compliance with the substitute arrangements by the relocating parent or other person once he or she is out of the jurisdiction of the court.

(d) The child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child.

(e) Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the parent or other person seeking the relocation and the child, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefits or educational opportunities.

(f) The reasons each parent or other person is seeking or opposing the relocation.

(g) The current employment and economic circumstances of each parent or other person and whether the proposed relocation is necessary to improve the economic circumstances of the parent or other person seeking relocation of the child.

(h) That the relocation is sought in good faith and the extent to which the objecting parent has fulfilled his or her financial obligations to the parent or other person seeking relocation, including child support, spousal support, and marital property and marital debt obligations.

(i) The career and other opportunities available to the objecting parent or other person if the relocation occurs.

(j) A history of substance abuse or domestic violence as defined in s. 741.28 or which meets the criteria of s. 39.806(1)(d) by either parent, including a consideration of the severity of such conduct and the failure or success of any attempts at rehabilitation.

(k) Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child or as set forth in s. 61.13.

If, based upon an analysis of the evidence in light of these factors, the judge determines that the relocation serves the child’s best interest, then he or she will grant the petition and fashion a new parenting plan which takes into account the distance between the parties. Usually, the non-relocating parent’s time sharing will consist of extended time in the summer, along with time at Christmas, Thanksgiving and Spring Break. The non-relocating parent will also have the right to visit near the child’s locality upon reasonable notice to the primary time sharing parent. In addition, the non-relocation parent should have access to increased electronic communication with the child through Skype, Facetime and other methods.

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Experienced Family Law Attorney In Okaloosa and Walton County

Estate planning, protecting your rights and defending needs for guardianship are all matters that you need an experienced legal professional to handle. Laws on these topics are different from state to state and an elder law attorney can help you navigate a variety of issues for your elderly loved one or yourself depending on your state’s policies. They can offer a variety of information and guidance surrounding a few very specific topics because they’re viewed as legal specialists with a wealth of knowledge in a particular area.

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