Most central Floridians know that life can be uncertain and that change may the only enduring life experience for some people. Change, especially unexpected or abrupt change, can be especially difficult if minor children are involved. One of the most complex experiences can be the decision of a custodial parent to relocate his or her principal residence. Florida law has provisions for two types of moves: an agreement between the child’s parents or an order of the court.

Parental relocations of less than 50 miles are not affected by Florida laws that govern the right of the custodial parent to relocate. For any move of 50 miles or more, the parents must either agree in writing on the terms of the relocation or the parent desiring to move must seek permission from the court. A written agreement must contain the written consent of the non-custodial parent to the relocation, an access or time-sharing schedule for the non-relocating parent and a description of transportation issues concerning the relocation. If both parties agree, the court will ratify the agreement without conducting an evidentiary hearing.

In the absence of an agreement, the parent seeking to relocate must draft a petition seeking permission and serve the petition on the other parent. In addition to personal information about the petitioner and the proposed new address, the petition shall contain a detailed statement of the reasons why the petitioner desires to relocate. If one of the reasons for the move is a job offer in the new location, a written copy of the offer must be attached to the petition. The petition must also contain a proposal for visitation and time-sharing after the move. If the other parent objects, he or she must respond to the petition within 20 days. If the other parent fails to file a timely objection to the petition, the court will issue an order permitting the move. If the other parent or other interested party objects, the petitioner must await the outcome of a court hearing and the court’s approval. Failure to do so can make the petitioner liable for severe penalties.

Because relocation may often require a court hearing, the advice of an experienced divorce attorney may be necessary.