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Relocation of Minor Children During Divorce
If you want to move or relocate with a minor child more than 50 miles away from where you lived at the time of filing the petition for dissolution of marriage or at the time of the last court order, you must file a Petition for Relocation.
Section 61.13001, Florida Statutes, establishes the procedures for a parent wishing to relocate with a minor child or children. “Relocation” for legal purposes is defined as a change in the principal residence of a parent from the time of the last order establishing or modifying time-sharing, or at the time of filing the initial action. The change of location must be at least 50 miles from that residence, and for at least 60 consecutive days not including temporary absences. The distance of 50 miles is not measured by driving distance, but rather by “how the crow flies” or a straight line from one residence to another.
Factors for Relocation During Divorce in Florida
In reaching a decision regarding whether relocation is appropriate, either temporary or permanent, the court must evaluate eleven factors provided for in Section 61.13001(7), Florida Statutes:
The nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child’s relationship with the parent and the non-relocating parent, other persons, siblings, half-siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life. In other words, does the child or children have substantial ties to the parents and family members that would be affected by the relocation?
The age and developmental stage of the child, the needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development, taking into consideration any special needs of the child. The court must determine whether the relocation will negatively impact the child or children.
The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating parent or other person and the child through substitute arrangements that take into consideration the logistics of contact, access, and time-sharing, as well as the financial circumstances of the parties.
The child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child.
Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the parent or other person seeking the relocation and the child, including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefits or educational opportunities.
The reasons each parent or other person is seeking or opposing the relocation.
The current employment and economic circumstances of each parent or other person and whether the proposed relocation is necessary to improve the economic circumstances of the parent or other person seeking relocation of the child.
That the relocation is sought in good faith and the extent to which the objecting parent has fulfilled his or her financial obligations to the parent or other person seeking relocation, including child support, spousal support, and marital property and marital debt obligations.
The career and other opportunities available to the objecting parent or other person if the relocation occurs.
A history of substance abuse or domestic violence as defined in s. 741.28 or which meets the criteria of s. 39.806(1)(d) by either parent, including a consideration of the severity of such conduct and the failure or success of any attempts at rehabilitation.
Finally, the court may consider any other factor affecting the best interest of the child.
If the non-moving party does not want the minor child to move, they should file an objection based within the statutory timeframe. Failure to file an objection could result in a waiver, allowing the relocation of the minor child.
Filing a motion for relocation is just the first step. Once the motion is filed, a full hearing is necessary to determine whether it is in the best interest of the child or children to grant the relocation. During the hearing, the parties must present evidence regarding the above-mentioned statutory factors. The party seeking the relocation has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that relocation is in the best interest of the child or children. If that burden is met, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child or children. If the court approves relocation, the court may order contact with the non-relocating party and may specify how transportation costs are to be allocated.
The most important point to remember is that you must comply with the terms of the statute if you want to move or relocate with a minor child more than 50 miles away from where you lived at the time of filing the petition for dissolution of marriage or at the time of the last court order. Failure to comply could have drastic consequences.
Further Reading on Relocation During Divorce in Florida