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Child relocation requirements for divorced Florida parents

Moving with your children after divorce requires court approval. In contested cases, you must have evidence that the move is in the best interests of the children.

Florida parenting plans and time-sharing agreements must take into account the best interests of the child. The goal is for each parent to continue to have frequent and continuing contact with the child. How is this possible when one parent needs to leave the state?

Sometimes, it is necessary to move to a different state for a job offer or educational opportunity. Advancing within a large company may require a move across the country. Acceptance to a prestigious graduate program could expand career options and lead to higher earnings potential.

An initial time-sharing agreement must take into consideration the best interests of the child or children. Those best interests include:

  • Capacity of each parent to care for the child
  • Whether the parents reside close enough to make a proposed parenting plan work
  • Moral fitness of each parent
  • Home, school and community record of the child
  • Ability of a parent to obtain information about the child's circumstances (i.e. how he or she is doing in school)

A divorced parent must seek a modification of child custody to relocate outside of Florida with a child. In a contested relocation, the parent requesting the move must show by the greater weight of the evidence that a move will benefit the child and not just the parent.

Evidence necessary to support relocating

Florida courts must consider how the move will affect the current time-sharing schedule and access with the nonrelocating parent. It must also be in the best interests of the child before a court will approve a relocation request.

Some ways to establish that a move is in the child's best interest include having a plan for how the child will be able to maintain a strong relationship with the other parent. Showing there will be access to better schools and extracurricular activities may support a request to move. A promotion or graduate school program will also go into the determination, but usually cannot be the sole reason.

A request to move from Florida to New York

In a recent Florida case, a Father sought to move from Florida to the New York City area so he could complete a pharmacy degree. The trial court granted the Father's relocation request. The Mother appealed the decision and an appellate court reversed.

The court of appeals noted that it would take at least 3.5 years before the children benefited from any financial benefit. At the time, Father already had two undergrad degrees that had not resulted in a "high-paying" salary. The trial court had not addressed the feasibility of the Mother maintaining a relationship with her sons. There was also nothing to show the move would "enhance the general quality of life or educational opportunities" for the children.

This case illustrates that substantial evidence is often required to support a relocation request. Divorced parents should seek the counsel of a family law attorney when considering a move out of state.

Keywords: child custody, relocation, time-sharing agreements

Meet Michael Leininger

Meet Michael Leininger

Attorney Michael R. Leininger began his legal career in real estate law and commercial law serving small businesses in a variety of ways.

Known for his rigorous attention to detail and his commitment to being overly-accessible at all times, he is a lawyer with unwavering honesty, fairness and integrity.

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