Parental relocation with a child after a divorce

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Many residents of Orlando and Winter Park who have finalized a divorce and been awarded custody of their children wonder whether they can move and take the children with them. Conversely, many residents respond with anger and fear when they learn that their ex-spouse plans to move and take the children. Fortunately, for both parties, Florida law provides two basic methods for resolving the problem of parent relocation when children are involved.

For purposes of the statute, "relocation" is defined as any move for a distance of 50 miles or more. The parents and "every other person entitled to access or time-sharing with the child" can agree among themselves to any relocation, if they sign a written agreement that specifies the move, contains language that expresses individual consent to the move and defines an access or time-sharing for all individuals entitled to visitation with the child. The agreement must be filed with the court. If no one objects to the agreement within 10 days, the relocation is presumed to be in the best interests of the child.

In the absence of such an agreement, the custodial parent who desires to move must file a petition with the court seeking approval for the relocation. The petition must specify the new address, the date of the proposed move, a detailed statement of the reasons for the move and a proposal for post-relocation visitation. The petition must be served on all persons with visitation rights, and any person who objects must file a written response.

The statute identifies the factors that must be considered by the judge, including the child's relationship with the non-custodial parent and others with visitation rights, the age of the child, the likely impact of the move on the child's well-being and other reasons for opposing the relocation. The child's preferences will also be considered, given the child's age and maturity. Failure to seek court approval of the move can subject the custodial parent to severe sanctions.

The relocation process is not simple. Even if all parties agree to the move, a lawyer's assistance is usually required to draft the consent agreement. If the proposed move results in a court hearing, an experienced family lawyer can offer valuable assistance in drafting the petition or the opposition and in presenting evidence in court.

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