Relocating With Children During a Divorce in Florida

By Cindy Chung

When parents divorce in Florida, they generally need a court order for custody and visitation. Before either parent relocates with the children, the parents should check the terms of any existing court orders, whether temporary or permanent, for limits on parental relocation. Parents often need to file petitions for court approval before moving away with their children. A mother or father on either side of a parental relocation case may benefit from representation by a Florida attorney.

Divorce and Parental Rights

During a divorce, married parents often need to negotiate custody and visitation issues. Florida state laws use the term "parenting plan" to describe a court order for child custody. A parenting plan explains each parent's rights and responsibilities related to child-rearing decisions on important topics such as education, health and religion. In addition, a parenting plan often includes a time-sharing schedule to establish when a mother or father can spend time with the children. Although state law permits a court to determine a parenting plan, parents can also write a parenting plan together and submit the plan for court approval.

Parenting Plan and Relocation

A court-ordered or court-approved parenting plan established during divorce as a temporary or permanent order might include requirements related to parental relocation with the children. Florida state laws specifically allow a court to restrict each parent's right to take the children to another state or country. The court may limit the right to travel outside of Florida as well as the right to permanently relocate outside of Florida. When a court order prohibits international travel or relocation, the court may require the surrender of the child's passport.

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Petition to Relocate

Florida state laws define relocation as any move at least 50 miles away from the parent's current residence for a duration of at least 60 days. Parents can sign a relocation agreement voluntarily if both parents agree to the move. However, if the parents do not agree, the mother or father seeking to move must file a Petition to Relocate with a Florida state court. The other parent has an opportunity to respond to the petition and oppose the move. When the parents have a pending case for a contested relocation, a court may grant a temporary order to allow the relocation before the court makes a permanent decision.

Legal Factors to Determine Parental Relocation

When parents cannot agree on relocation, the parent who would like to relocate must show the court that the move is in the child's best interests. State laws establish a list of factors for the court to consider in a contested relocation. These factors include the parent's reasons for moving, both parents' economic circumstances, impact on the child, child's preferences and relocating parent's willingness to maintain the other parent's relationship with the child. The court may seek to preserve the parenting plan established during the couple's divorce and maintain stability in the child's life.

Relocation Without Court Order

A parent should understand Florida's relocation laws before choosing to relocate without court approval. If the terms of a couple's divorce establish a parenting plan or place limits on relocation with the children, a relocation without a judge's approval may lead to legal consequences. A state court may initiate contempt proceedings against the parent or use the parent's relocation as a reason to change the custodial arrangement in favor of the other parent.

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