In Florida, can a divorced or single parent move with or without their child?

If you have made arrangements to move with your child without being sure you are acting legally, think again.   The ramifications of relocating with your child without approval from the other parent or the court are potentially hazardous.  A Court could hold you in contempt of Court or make you move back to your old location with the children, or worse, give up custody to the other parent.

“Relocation” means a change in the location of the principal residence of a parent or other person from his or her principal place of residence at the time of the last order establishing or modifying time-sharing, or at the time of filing the pending action to establish or modify time-sharing. The change of location must be at least 50 miles from that residence, and for at least 60 consecutive days not including a temporary absence from the principal residence for purposes of vacation, education, or the provision of health care for the child.

In 1997, the Florida Legislature passed the first version of what has become known as Florida’s Relocation Statute.  F.S. Section 61.13(2)(d).  That law effectively changed the standard that the Courts used to decide whether or not to allow a custodial parent to relocate with a child.  See Mize v. Mize, 621 So. 2d 417 (Fla. 1993); Russenberger v. Russenberger, 669 So. 2d 1044.  This law provided that there would not be a presumption in favor or against a relocation and the Court set forth specific factors that would be used to evaluate the proposed relocation and whether it would be in the best interests of the child or children.  Fredman v. Fredman, 960 So 2nd 52 (2nd DCA 2007).  The current version of Florida’s Relocation Statute is F.S. Section 61.13001.  The current version restricts a parent from relocating and sets forth a detailed list of factors the court can use to decide for or against a relocation.  See F.S. 61.13001(7)(a)-(k).

Relocation only applies to situations where parents are divorced or no longer living together and they have litigated a paternity case.  Before the 2009 amendment to the relocation statute, the statute only required the parent with primary residential responsibility for the child to obtain permission to relocate.  A relocation in Florida comes into play when either parent wishes to move 50 miles or more from the location they were living at the time of divorce or at the time a paternity judgment was entered.  When the parent has moved to a new location for a period of 60 consecutive days or has relocated the child for that period of time more than 50 miles the relocation statute is usually applicable.  There are some exceptions if the child was relocated on a temporary basis for medical or educational reasons.  There are essentially two ways that a parent can relocate legally, either by agreement of the other parent or with permission from the Court.  Under the current statute, which was last modified in 2009, the Court’s consideration goes to whether or not the proposed substitute timesharing for the opposing parent is adequate to  foster a continuing and meaningful relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent. F.S. 61.13001(7)(c).  If a parent is in the military, a deployment does not amount to relocation under the law and is defined as a period of time up to 18 months.  F.S. Sect. 61.703(9).  A permanent relocation is governed by Florida’s Relocation Act.

Relocating without legal justification could lead to bad results and punishment from the Court including possible loss or reduction in custody.  The easiest way to relocate is by agreement from the opposing party, which should be put in place by an order of the Court.  Otherwise, a parent’s only other option to relocate is to petition the Court for a relocation.  Litigating a relocation can be time consuming, so it pays to start early if you are have plans to relocate.  If you are thinking of relocating, it is a good idea to discuss the relocation with an experienced Florida family law attorney.  Call a Jacksonville Divorce Lawyer to assist you.  Contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC for a consultation.

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