Divorced parents rarely remain in the same houses, or even in the same state for their child’s entire childhood. Sometimes, parents move out of state for economic reasons, such as a new job, or to be with a new spouse or closer to family. Whatever the reason for the move, Florida laws provide strict procedures the parents must follow before moving a child to another state.
Florida law does not actually address traditional “custody,” since Florida does not use that term in its statutes. The state also does not designate either parent as the primary or secondary residential parent. Instead, both parents have “time sharing” schedules with their children. Since the family’s time-sharing arrangement is based on the family's situation at the time of the divorce, the arrangement may eventually need to change if a parent moves. Florida law requires the parent with whom the child resides to notify the other parent before moving the child more than 50 miles away from his current residence.
If the parents can reach agreement about the move, the moving parent has the responsibility to obtain written agreement from the other parent and any other parties who might be legally entitled to spend time with the child, such as certain grandparents. The agreement must reflect that all parties consent to the relocation, define the visitation rights for the parties who are not moving and describe any transportation arrangements made necessary by the move. For example, if the move will require the child to travel by airplane rather than by car, which parent will pay for the plane tickets?
Notice of Intent to Relocate
If the parents cannot agree on the move, the parent who proposes to move must file a Notice of Intent to Relocate with the appropriate court, usually the court that issued the last child support order. Then, the moving parent must serve copies of the notice on all parties with a legal right to see the child. The notice must include the details of the move, such as the address and phone number of the new residence, the date of the proposed move, an explanation of the reasons for the move and a proposed schedule of visitation and transportation arrangements for the child after the move.
If the non-relocating parent does not agree to the move, he can file an objection after he receives the Notice of Intent to Relocate. The court will hold a hearing to receive evidence from both sides about why the relocation is, or is not, in the child’s best interests. The court will determine whether the move is permissible by determining whether it is in the child’s best interests, relying on a list of statutory factors such as the child’s preference, the feasibility of preserving the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent and the reasons for the relocation. The parent proposing to move has the burden to demonstrate that the move is in the best interests of the child.