A common issue that  parents face after the initial child custody location is when the parent that has the majority of time-sharing, or primary custody, over the minor child(ren), seeks to relocate from the principal address or residence.  When speaking about “relocation” in this blog we are referring to a distance of fifty miles or more from that principal residence and a time period of sixty days or more.  A temporary move (or absence) for reasons such as vacation, education, or health care do not qualify.

The easiest way to resolve relocation is by agreement.  This means that the parents reach a settlement on how to modify the current child custody, time-sharing, arrangement as a result of the relocation.  Often, when we are talking about a significant geographic relocation, the typical shared parenting plan that awards one parent every-other weekend visitation becomes logistically impossible.  As a result of this logistically impossible scenario, that parent may receive greater visitation with the child(ren) during extended winter and spring breaks as well as longer summer visitation.

If the parties can not agree to a change in the time sharing schedule as a result of relocation, Florida Statute 61.13001 requires the parent seeking to relocate to file a “petition to relocate” and serve the petition on the other parent.  After service of the petition, the Court can issue temporary orders, including a temporary order restraining the child from relocating or ordering the child to return if the parent/child have already relocated.

If relocation is contested, the court must make a determination on whether or not it is in the best interest of the child to relocate with the parent.  Some of the factors the court considers are:

(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 nonrelocating 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 nonrelocating 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 nonrelocating 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.
The party seeking relocation with the minor child must show by a preponderance of the evidence that relocation is in the best interest of the minor child.  If the proponent of relocation meets this burden, then the parent opposing relocation must then attempt to show that relocation is not in the best interest of the minor child.
If you are a parent facing a relocation issue, I recommend you consult with an Okaloosa Family Law Attorney to discuss your case.
Jeremy S. Keich is a Destin Divorce Attorney  representing clients in matters involving divorce, child custody, child support and paternity issues.  None of the information contained in this blog should be construed as legal advice nor shall the communication be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship.  For more information about Jeremy S. Keich or to contact him about a Walton County Child Custody Case or Okaloosa County Family Law Matter please visit www.keichlaw.com or call (850) 460-2989.