Sometimes circumstances change after a divorce and one parent seeks to relocate the children away from South Florida because of a remarriage or job opportunity. Whether you are a parent seeking a relocation or the parent objecting to a relocation, this type of case is fraught with uncertainty. The State of Florida has very specific laws governing the relocation of minor children.
If you are looking to relocate fifty (50) miles or more from your current residence with the minor children, you should consult an attorney to advise you of the viability of your case. You will be required to either obtain the consent from the other parent, or file a petition for relocation. Even if you obtain consent from the other parent, it is advisable to have an agreed order permitting relocation entered before relocating with the children to avoid any issues in the future about wrongful relocation or confusion with the court as to why you relocated without a court order. If you relocate without consent or if the court cannot determine consent was given because no court order is entered allowing relocation, your relocation could subject you to contempt proceedings, orders stating the children must be returned to the county you relocated from, and could be taken into account negatively by the court in any subsequent relocation petition that you file.
In order to obtain the court’s permission to relocate with your children, you should file a petition for relocation and include in the petition several required items of information such as your intended date for relocation, the physical address and telephone number of your intended new residence, mailing address if different from physical address, a detailed statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation, if a job offer was made and accepted, a copy of the written job offer should be attached, and a proposed post-relocation timesharing schedule including transportation arrangements.
In your detailed statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation, you should review the factors the Court must evaluate to permit or deny relocation and include information regarding those factors. Factors the court will evaluate include the quality and extent of the relationship between the children and you and the children and your non-relocating former spouse, the impact the relocation will have on your children, the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the children and your non-relocating former spouse, the child’s age and preference, whether the relocation will enhance the quality of life for the child, your employment and economic circumstances, whether your former spouse has any job opportunities in the area you are proposing to relocate in, whether your former spouse is current in his or her financial obligations to you, and other factors.
If your former spouse has asked you to relocate with your children and you object, you must clearly object in writing. This is true if your former spouse has asked you in casual conversation or by email or text message, or if your former spouse filed a petition for relocation. If your spouse has verbally or informally, in writing, without filing a petition asked you to relocate with the minor children you must immediately respond by letter or by email that you object. Do not delay responding for any reason.
If you were served with a petition for relocation, you have twenty (20) days to file your written objection. If you fail to file your written objection within twenty (20) days, the court will presume the relocation is in the best interests of the children and could enter an order permitting relocation.
In your objection, you should clearly state that you object to the proposed relocation and explain in detail your reasons for the objection. You should include what timesharing you are exercising, your involvement in your children’s lives, that you are current in child support obligations, your children’s ties to all family in the area, ties to the community, and any and all facts that are important in connection with your case.
If you are contemplating a divorce and believe relocation is in the best interests of your children and family, you need to file a petition to relocate in addition to a petition for dissolution of marriage. Filing two petitions does not necessarily require two different trials, and all issues can be handled in one trial. However, if you find it necessary to relocate prior to the conclusion of your divorce, you can ask for a hearing on the relocation matter first.
The court is required to expedite the hearing on a temporary relocation and set the hearing within thirty (30) days after the motion is filed and a hearing is requested. The court will evaluate a request for temporary location by looking at the factors and determining whether there is a likelihood that a final relocation will be granted. If a temporary relocation is granted, then a final relocation hearing will be set by the court at some point in the future.
The court is required to give priority to hearings in connection with a request for relocation. If no temporary relocation is requested, the court is required to set the final hearing within ninety (90) days of the filing of the petition and request for hearing.
Whether a temporary relocation is requested, or a final hearing is sought, the discovery is intensive and costly. The attorneys on both sides will want to depose every proposed witness, will want to review prior to the hearing every exhibit that will be offered into evidence, and will conduct extensive legal research.