Relocating with children after a divorce can be a difficult process for various reasons. On a personal level, children become grounded in their communities and schools, and they enjoy familiar faces around every corner. Despite this stability, child relocation is a reality, and the reasons to relocate vary from case to case. Below are some of the top reasons parents seek to relocate with children after a divorce, as observed by a Florida family law attorney.
- Employment. The most common basis for relocation with children is the need to continue employment, or to secure better employment. In a military divorce, for example, an ex-spouse who is a service member may be transferred to a different duty location. Or, an individual may have an opportunity to obtain a job in another state with better pay, better hours, and/or more benefits.
- Support Network. A former spouse may have very little family or other support in their current location, but have an opportunity to secure the support of family by moving to a different location. This is especially the case where a person moved to the area with a now former spouse, but now has no ties to the area at all, and yet, has primary timesharing rights with the child.
- New Spouse. A former spouse may have remarried, and even had children in their new relationship. Subsequently, their new spouse could be forced to relocate due to the demands of their employment. The former spouse could then be forced to seek relocation to maintain their new marital relationship. This is a particularly difficult scenario for the remarried spouse, as the person could ultimately be forced to decide between remaining in the current community with primary custody, or seeking to relocate and losing primary custody in the process. An important factor for the court should be whether the remarried spouse knew their new spouse could be transferred to a new location when they married their new spouse. It takes an experienced family law attorney to help you navigate the complexities of your case.
- Alienation. Although not a valid reason to seek relocation, some parents seek to relocate specifically to isolate a child from the other parent. This is known as alienation and is heavily disfavored by the court. Alienation can be a grounds for changing primary custody to the other parent, irrespective of relocation.
Parents faced with a need to relocate must seek permission to relocate with the children if the relocation is more than 50 miles. Given that requirement, even relocating within Florida can trigger the need to seek court approval to relocate. Due to the often contentious nature of child relocation cases, it is highly recommended that you consult with your family law attorney prior to any relocation, big or small.
The procedures for relocating must be strictly followed in order for the Court to approve the relocation. Unless a written agreement is secured and filed with the court, a petition must be filed and a court order approving the relocation must be obtained. The court is required to evaluate a petition to relocate by analyzing the best interests of the child and, in Florida, there is no presumption for or against relocation. In the case of a relocation petition, Florida law sets out a list of best interests factors for the court to consider in Florida Statute § 61.13001. These factors include:
- The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child’s relationship with each parent
- The age and developmental stage of the child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development
- The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating parent
- The child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child
- Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for the relocating parent and the child
- The reasons each parent or other person 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 is approved
- A history of substance abuse or domestic violence, including a consideration of the severity of such conduct and the failure or success of any attempts at rehabilitation.
- Any other factor affecting the best interests of the child. Speak with a Florida family law attorney for more information.
If the proper legal procedures are not followed, the court could issue an injunction prohibiting the relocation, or requiring the child to return if the child has already been relocated. An experienced Florida family law attorney can give you proper advice on these matters, and The Wheeler Firm is here to help. If you need to relocate with your child, or need to defend against a petition to relocate with your child, give us a call at (850) 613-6923 or contact us to schedule a consultation. We have offices in Fort Walton Beach and Miramar Beach to best serve clients in Okaloosa County, Walton County, and the surrounding areas.