11 Factors Used to Determine Child Relocation Petitions in Florida

Family law attorneys at Sarasota's Icard Merrill outline the factors courts use to determine parent relocation requests

In order to determine time-sharing (i.e. custody of a minor child) in Florida, a court must consider a number of factors. These factors are covered in a separate article – 20 Steps Florida Courts Use to Determine Child Custody.

A related but no less complex area of family law is focused on the relocation of a parent with a minor child. This situation often occurs after a time-sharing plan is established, but can occur at any time a parent decides to relocate and still seeks to exercise time-sharing with the minor child. At this point, the parents of a minor child can either agree to the relocation or the other parent can contest.

This article will briefly explore basic requirements for seeking relocation with a particular emphasis on the factors the family law courts must use in evaluating  a contested relocation.

Under section (1) of Florida Statutes §61.13001, relocation is defined as changing location of the parent's residence to a new location at least fifty miles away from his or her current address for at least sixty consecutive days. Relocation does not include any temporary absence from the parent's residence for purposes of vacation, education, or providing health care for the child.

Section 2 in Florida's child relocation statute sets forth the requirements to obtain a legal relocation by agreement. The parties must sign a written agreement that contains the following three components:

  1. both parties' consent to the relocation
  2. a time-sharing schedule specifically for the parent who is not relocating
  3. any transportation arrangements necessary to achieve the new time-sharing schedule.

This agreement will be approved by the court without a hearing unless one of the parties requests a hearing within ten days after the agreement is filed. Without an agreement between the parties, any parent seeking to relocate must file a petition with the court.

Section 3 sets forth very specific elements that must be included in the petition to relocate; failure to include any of these elements will prevent the relocation until all of the elements are present within the petition. Relocating without complying with the required elements of the petition will subject the relocating parent to contempt of court, a court order to the return the child, and a basis for the court to deny relocation, change the current time-sharing schedule, and/or order attorney's fees to be paid by the relocating parent. On the other hand, if the petition to relocate is properly prepared and the non-relocating parent fails to timely file an objection, the court shall grant the petition without a hearing.

If  both parties properly follow these steps outlined in Section 3, a hearing will be held to determine whether or not the petition should be granted. The parent seeking relocation has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it is in the child's best interests to relocate. Section 7 of Florida's child relocation statute provides eleven specific factors the court  must consider in making its determination. These factors, briefly outlined, are as follows:

  1. the child's current relationship with the relocating parent and with the non-relocating parent and other significant persons in the child's life;
  2. the age and the corresponding needs of the minor child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child's development;
  3. the ability of the court to preserve the current relationship between the non-relocating parent and the minor child through substitute arrangements;
  4. the child's preference;
  5. whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the relocating parent and the child;
  6. the reasons cited by each parent either supporting or opposing the relocation;
  7. the current economic circumstances of each parent and whether the proposed relocation is necessary to improve those economic circumstances;
  8. whether the relocation is sought in good faith, including the extent to which the non-relocating parent has fulfilled his or her financial obligations to the relocating parent;
  9. the career and other opportunities available to the objecting parent if he or she also relocates to stay near the child;
  10. any history of substance abuse or domestic violence by either parent, including the failure or success of any attempts at rehabilitation;
  11. any other factor affecting the best interest of the child or any factor related to general custody considerations.

The court's determination can be either  temporary or permanent. A court's determination for temporary relocation must occur much sooner than a permanent one. Temporary relocation is often granted in cases where a number of the above-listed factors are unknown until the relocating parent actually moves to the new location; a common example is whether the relocating parent's new job in the new location is successful. The court will permit the relocation on a temporary basis so there is an opportunity to discover whether a factor favors one party or not.

These fundamental requirements apply to any party who has a legal right of access to time-sharing with a minor child. Any relocation also implicates these "other persons" (usually grandparents, guardians, or step-parents) who would potentially lose time-sharing with the minor child; thus, these other persons have the same rights to file an objection and plead their case in front of the court as the minor child's parents.

We invite you to continue browsing our site to learn more about child custody, divorce and more. And if you're looking for experienced, compassionate representation in your case, we urge you to contact our family law attorneys serving Sarasota, Bradenton, Port Charlotte and surrounding areas today for a free consultation.

*DISCLAIMER – This article is general in nature and intended for informational purposes. It is in no way meant to replace legal counsel.