Many people contact me with regards to relocation. Often the conversation either involves filing a Petition to Relocate on behalf of a parent or filing an objection to a Petition to Relocate that is filed by the other parent. Sometimes parents simply relocate with a minor child without filing for permission to do so. First, I would like to discuss the legal requirements for a Petition to Relocate. Second, I would like to discuss how to deal with an improper relocation that has occurred.
Relocation is dealt with in Section 61.13001 of the Florida Statutes. Relocation involves moving 50 or more miles away from the child’s current residence for 60 consecutive days or more. Final Judgments that deal with Paternity or Divorce and involve minor children will include this 50 mile restriction. The reason in general for the distance is in part that a new contact schedule often times needs to be entered because of the distance between parent and child. This relocation must either be by agreement between the parties or pursuant to an order from the court. It is important to note that, even if the parties agree and a Petition to Relocate is unnecessary, you must file a Modified Supplemental Final Judgment along with Joint Stipulation to avoid problems in the future. In this instance there would be no need for an evidentiary hearing.
If you file a Petition to Relocate, the Petition must include certain information. This includes, but is not limited to, the address of the proposed move, proposed substitute contact schedule, the proposed date of the relocation and a brief description of the reasons for the relocation. If the relocation is because of a job offer then the person filing must attach a copy of the job offer. Once the Petition is filed and served upon the other parent they must file a response within 20 days of service. They can either agree to the relocation or object to the relocation. If an objection is filed, the moving party can request a temporary hearing on the relocation which shall occur as a priority and within 30 days of service. Even if there is no response or an agreement, the moving party must request this temporary hearing to address the relocation.
Ultimately the court must make a determination as to whether a relocation is in the best interest of the minor child(ren). There are specific factors listed in Section 61.13001 of the Florida Statutes to guide the court in making this determination. If the relocation is pursuant to an agreement, the inquiry by the Court will be relatively minor. If the court has to hold an evidentiary hearing and make the decision, then a parent proposing relocation must present evidence on the factors. If you are a parent opposing relocation, then you should present evidence contrary to the relocation and the factors.
If a parent relocates with a minor child(ren) without agreement of the parents or court order, you should immediately file an Emergency Motion for Contempt and Emergency Motion for a Pick-Up Order. The longer you wait the more it looks to the court like this is not a priority for you. Contempt deals with a parent violting the 50 mile rule I referenced earlier. An Emergency Motion for a Pick-Up Order deals with forcing the parent to bring the child back to Florida, with or without the parent.
Regardless of whether you want to file a Petition to Relocate or have been served with a Petition to Relocate, Section 61.13001 of the Florida Statutes is a very long and involved statute. I would encourage each of you to read the statute and then contact my office for more information.
In addition there are a large number of cases that have addressed relocation. Those cases involve the statutory requirements of the Petition, reasons for relocation and best interests of the child determination to name a few. Do not attempt to tackle this subject on your own. There are some areas of Family Law that can be handled without the help of an attorney (although it is a mistake to ever deal with Family Law on your own) but this is not one of those areas.