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How does Florida law impact divorced parents with children wanting to relocate?

Dad and son movingBy: Kayla Richmond, Esq.

Do you have a child? Are you separated from your child’s other parent? Do you live in Florida? Then as a general rule of thumb, don’t make any plans to leave the area until your child becomes an adult.

Florida’s Relocation Statute §61.13001 is a strict statute that dictates how and when relocation of a Florida parent is appropriate.

Parent relocation limit is 50 miles, as the crow flies.

That’s right, the statute defines a “relocation” as a change in location of the principal residence of a parent, 50 miles from the address stated in the last court order or final judgment. Most parents often think that they are free to move about after a separation (and many want to get as far away as possible!). Some parents believe that so long as they aren’t taking the child along with them, they are good to go.

But these beliefs are misplaced according to Florida law. If a parent wishes to relocate, regardless of intention to bring the child along with them or not, they should be seeking court permission if the move is outside 50 miles (as the crow flies) of their residence listed in the last Court order. The statute’s language is crafted to protect children from being uprooted from their known community and to avoid long distances between a child and one parent. To transition children between two households where parents live in the same town already presents challenges, but coupled with travel logistics, like long drives or flights between states, and the expense of this travel can be exceptionally challenging for children (and adults).

What if the parents cannot agree?

If relocation is unavoidable, the easiest way for a parent to relocate out of the area is to get an agreement from the other parent. Not surprisingly, getting an agreement from your ex to move away and potentially change a child’s schedule and location, is often unlikely. If an agreement cannot be reached, a parent would be required to seek permission from the courts to relocate through Florida Statute §61.13001.

What factors does the court consider in ruling on a relocation request?

child running outsideThe parent seeking to relocate has the burden to prove to the court that despite the relocation, a meaningful relationship between both parents and the child can be maintained. The moving parent must be specific as to where they are going, the reasons for the relocation, and whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the relocating parent and the child. The court will also consider the age and academic records of the child, and the child’s ties to the community with which they live.

Through experience in representing clients requesting, or objecting to, a parent’s relocation, it proves difficult to demonstrate that the “general quality of life” of a child, is improved by moving away from one parent or the other. Employment opportunities weigh in as a good reason for a relocation, but a new spouse’s employment opportunity isn’t the key. Family and extended family support also weigh in as an important supporting fact for a court to grant permission for a relocation of a parent (and child). The duration a child has been in one location and planted roots is another influencing fact for whether a relocation should be permitted.

Generally speaking, Florida courts promote a child’s close proximity to both parents, more than one parent’s opportunity to live outside of 50 miles. This is important to consider, especially when the gut reaction at the time of a split is “get as far away as possible” or “to move back home” or “move with my new spouse.” At the end of the day, the court will consider the best interest of the child, and that child’s relationship with each parent.

Did you recently relocate to Florida after COVID?

Since the COVID pandemic, people are relocating in droves. Florida is seeing an influx of people after experiencing extensive COVID lockdowns and preferring the state’s lesser COVID restrictions. Once you establish residency (by residing in Florida for six months), Florida family law statutes, and specifically, the relocation statute §61.13011, will dictate your future moves.

Those needing assistance in family law matters, and specifically attempting to relocate, or objecting to a request for relocation, may contact me at kayla.richmond@henlaw.com or by phone at 239-344-1156.

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