Custody and relocation battles are very prevalent in Florida’s family courtrooms. Relocation, or a change of residence, is the relocation of a child to a principal residence more than 50 miles away from the child’s address at the time of the request. If a parent wants to move a child less than 50 miles away from the nonresidential parent, a request for relocation is not necessary. Luckily for all parties involved, the courts are time sensitive to relocation cases. Once a temporary relocation is requested, the courts must hear the case within 30 days of the request being filed. If you are on a time crunch to move, you may be better off filing for temporary relocation first.
Court Considering Factors in Relocation Cases
If you are in the midst of a relocation and custody battle, keep the following factors in mind. Judges will often base their decisions on:
- The child’s relationships with any important people (custodial parent, noncustodial parent, siblings, relatives, etc.)
- The impact the move may have on the child’s overall mental, physical and emotional health
- The child’s age
- Whether or not the child has special needs
- How visitation arrangements can be made that would not be harmful to the child and non-relocating parent’s relationship
- The child’s preference
- How the relocation would advance the child and moving parent’s lives
- The reasoning behind the move (employment, education, etc.)
- The reasoning behind the noncustodial parent’s objections to the relocation
- Any history of domestic abuse
When the Parents Agree
If both parents are willing to work with each other, a shared custody agreement may be explored. Shared custody agreements are the ideal approach to relocation cases because both parents are permitted a fair amount of time with their children. These agreements are also referred to as time sharing. With time sharing, one parent is awarded physical custody and the other is awarded generous visitation rights. Even in this situation, a parent cannot move more than 50 miles away for 60 consecutive days without a written agreement from all parties that are entitled to timesharing of the child or without filing a petition to permit relocation. The following occurs when both parents agree on relocation:
- A written agreement is filed explaining the noncustodial parent’s consent to the move, a request to modify the visitation schedule and transportation arrangements correlating with visitation.
- Longer visitation periods may be offered to the parent not moving.
- Anyone else with visitation rights, like grandparents, must also approve of the move.
- The court must approve the relocation proposal before the move can occur.
When the Parents Disagree
Most of the time, parents cannot agree on custody cases outside of court. If one parent disagrees to the move, a petition for relocation must be filed containing the below information.
- The physical location, mailing address, and telephone number of the new home
- The date of the potential move
- The specific reasons for the move (employment, education, etc.)
- Visitation schedules including transportation arrangements for the move
- A notice telling the other parent how to object to the petition
- If the objecting parent does not respond to the notice, the judge will permit the move as long as evidence proves relocation is in the child’s best interest.
- If the objecting parent responds to the notice, a hearing will be held to make the final decision.
Putting it Into Perspective
Fredman v. Fredman was a relocation and custody case from Florida. A couple years after the birth of their two sons, the couple chose to get a divorce. Once the mother got remarried, she wanted to relocate her children to Ponder, Texas from Brandon, Florida. The mother’s new husband and stepson lived in Ponder. The father immediately objected. The mother argued the benefits of moving the children to Texas included a bigger house, better schooling, and the possibility of her career advancement. The father and his defense team were able to dispute her testimony by proving that the benefits the children would arguably gain by relocating to Texas were also attainable in Florida. It was recognized that relocating to Ponder would be valuable for the mother but it was not necessarily in the best interests of the children. The court ruled in favor of the father, which prevented the children from relocating, based on the following points:
- Housing: The bigger house the children would move into in Ponder could be found at a comparable cost in Brandon.
- Education: The school the children attended in Hillsborough County was comparable to the school they would have attended in Ponder.
- Family: The father’s extended family lives in Brandon and the children are able to see their grandparents at least once a week. In Texas, the only family the children had was their stepfather and stepbrother. The children also had a very good relationship with their father that the court was not willing to disrupt.
When it comes to cases of family law, men face an extreme disadvantage in court. Kenny Leigh and Associates understands that and is dedicated to fighting for men’s rights. If you are challenged with a custody or relocation battle, we can help. Contact us today to set up a consultation with a seasoned family law attorney.