One of the most painful post-divorce experiences is the relocation of one of the divorced spouses and dealing with issues of child custody and visitation. Florida has adopted a statute that attempts to specify the factors that must be considered and how the courts will resolve any disputes. As with most questions dealing with the custody of minor children, the principal factor is the best interests of the child. Nevertheless, every child’s situation is unique and no single rule will fit every situation.
A relocation means a change in the principal residence of a parent or other person with whom the child lives. The change of location means a move of at least 50 miles and lasting 60 consecutive days. If the parents and every other person entitled to access to the child can agree among themselves to the relocation and any modification in the visitation and custody schedule, they can satisfy the statute by filing with the court a written agreement signed by all parties. The agreement must define an access or time-sharing schedule and specify any transportation arrangements related to the new access schedule.
If the persons having a legal interest in access to the child cannot agree on the terms of the relocation, the person seeking relocation must file a petition with the court seeking approval for the relocation. The petition must describe the location of the new residence, mailing address, home phone number, the date of the intended relocation and a detailed statement of the reasons for the relocation. The petition must also contain a proposal for transportation agreements necessary to effectuate the time-sharing with the child after the move. The petition must be served upon any person having an interest in access to the child, and any party who objects must file a response within 20 days.
The court will conduct a hearing on the motion and any opposition. The statute provides a number of factors to be considered. The list is very similar to the factors that determine initial determinations of child custody. The person desiring to relocate has the burden of proving that the move will serve the best interest of the child. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer can be very helpful in such cases by assembling necessary and persuasive evidence and by formulating arguments to maximize the chances of a favorable outcome.