Should I Stay or Should I Go: Florida’s Relocation Laws

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In the aftermath of a divorce or separation, there may often be a variety of emotions —  perhaps sadness, grief, happiness, even relief.   With all these whirlwinds of emotions, a common reaction is wanting to hit the “reset” button and just start over.  This prospect of starting over sometimes involves getting as far away as possible from the other person and your old life by moving away.  However, divorced or separated parents in Florida contemplating a move need to understand the legal aspects of relocation.  These parents might find themselves caught in a dilemma perfectly stated in the the song by the punk band, The Clash, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

What Is Considered Relocation?

Most parents do not realize or, if they had an attorney representing them in their family law matter, remember that they are required to get permission from anyone to move.  Yet, if a parent intends to move 50 more miles or more from their current residence, they must get permission from the court.  That is a somewhat simplified definition. Relocation is controlled by Florida Statutes, §61.1300

Relocation means 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 timesharing, or at the time of filing the pending action to establish or modify timesharing.  The change in 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 the purposes of vacation, education, or the provision of health care for the child.

What Does That Really Mean?

Here are some key definitions from the relocation statute:

A parent is someone named as a parent pursuant to a court order or written agreement which can be enforced by the court or a person that is named as a parent on the child’s birth certificate and is allowed to have contact or timesharing with the child.

Other person is someone with whom the child lives with pursuant to a court order but is not a parent of the child and who is allowed contact, visitation, or timesharing with the child.

Thus, Florida law requires that if one parent wants to move 50 miles or more from their current address where they are living at the time they filed a pending family law case that involves timesharing or from the address they lived at during the time when the final judgment of marriage, paternity, etc. or any other order that established or changed timesharing they must provide notice to the other parent or other person as defined above, get their consent, and/or the court’s permission.  The move must be for more than 60 days in a row.  The relocation statute then does not apply if, for instance, the parent is spending two weeks at their vacation home.

Key Points From the Relocation Statute?

Should I Stay or Will You Let Me Go: Relocation by AgreementIn an ideal, but unlikely world, everyone would be happily co-parenting and simply agree to one parent’s proposed relocation.  However, even in this case, the parents must sign and a written agreement approved by the court that shows the consent of the nonrelocating parent to the relocation; provides a timesharing schedule for the nonrelocating parent; and defines any necessary transportation arrangements for the nonrelocating parent’s timesharing.

Should I Stay or Will the Court Let Me Go: Petition for RelocationWithout an agreement to the relocation, the parent that wants to relocate must provide notice to the other parent and the court by filing a Petition for Relocation and serving it upon the other parent. The contents required to be in the petition are specified within the statute.  Be aware that courts are very strict that a petition for relocation must comply with the requirements of the statute.  One of the main requirements is that the petition contain a proposed timesharing schedule for the nonrelocating parent.  If the petition does not contain this proposed timesharing schedule, the petition is “legally insufficient.”

You Should Stay and I Won’t Let You Go:  Objection to RelocationEven more important for the nonrelocating parent, if they object to the proposed relocation, they must file a written objection that complies with the requirements of the statute with the court and serve it on the parent wanting to relocate within 20 days of being served the petition for relocation.  If the parent does not file a written objection within this time, unless it is not in the child’s best interests, the petition will be granted and the relocation allowed without any further notice or hearing. If a parent does not want the relocation to occur, this is definitely not a deadline to miss (or have an attorney representing you miss).

It Depends Whether You Should Stay or You Can Go:  The Court’s Considerations in Relocation CasesThere is no presumption for or against relocation.  As always when children are involved, the court’s paramount consideration is the best interests of the children.  The court must also evaluate other factors including, the reasons for the relocation, the reasons the nonrelocating parent is objecting the relocation, the extent of the nonrelocating parent’s relationship with the child and the how likely the proposed timesharing schedule will preserve the relationship between the nonrelocating parent and the child.

Relocation cases are some of the most difficult cases, and at the same time, the easiest.  They are difficult and easy at the same time because unless one of the parents comes off of their position (the parent that wanted to go, decides to stay or the parent that wanted them to stay, decides to let them go), and settles through mediation, the only real resolution is to have the court decide.  It is a dilemma as The Clash sings, “If I go, there will be trouble. And if I stay, it will be double.” If you would like to discuss a possible relocation or defending against a relocation, please schedule a consultation today.


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