Child Relocation Conflicts of Divorced Parents
By Orlando Divorce Lawyer Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011
Three Conflicts to Reconcile When Divorced Parents Relocate With Their Children
Divorced parents relocating with children find a conflict between the realities of moving farther away from the other parent and the laws governing relocations (Section 61.13.0001, Florida Statutes). I have already discussed the do’s and don’ts for relocating parents. On this page I add some insights into this process. Here are three conflicts that create tensions during the relocation process:
(1) Reconciling Relocating Quickly with The Difficulty in Scheduling a Hearing
Granted, the Florida statutes cited above does ostensibly require that a hearing on a motion for a temporary relocation be held within 30 days. However, many family law judges in the Orlando area resist scheduling these during this short window because their calendars are invariably booked.
Therefore, your family lawyer and paralegal usually must display considerable finesse and tact in convincing the judicial assistant to create room in the judge’s calendar. Furthermore, the opposing counsel, whose client is against the move, will not be eager to make himself quickly available for such a hearing.
The difficulties of scheduling a hearing in general is lost upon many divorced clients of family lawyers. They simply assume that a hearing date will be quickly forthcoming. With relocation hearings of divorced parents relocating with children, in particular, nothing can be further from the truth. Of course, the client seeking the move often needs to be in their new home within a certain time frame. Dealing with this conflict requires planning, patience and finesse.
(2) Reconciling the Family Court Judge Reaching a Compromise Ruling With the All-Or-Nothing Nature Of How the Relocation Issue Is Resolved
Family law judges rarely verbalize their tendency to issue compromise rulings. However, experienced family lawyers will confirm that most judicial rulings fail to completely satisfy either party. Whether the issue is time-sharing, alimony, or equitable distribution of assets, judges most often issue a ruling that falls in between the results each side wanted.
However, a relocation case does not lend itself to such a compromise. Unlike the amount of child support or alimony, it is an all or nothing choice. If a parent wants to relocate with a child from Florida to Massachusetts, the judge cannot simply order the parent to move to Virginia. Judges often acknowledge this harsh “all or nothing” reality when dealing with relocation cases.
As a result of this predicament, family law judges tend to place an unofficially higher burden of proof on the relocating parent, who under the statute, only has to show, by a preponderance of evidence, that the move is in the best interests of the child. Still, one might wonder why judges do not lean more often towards granting, instead of denying, the relocation requests. The answer to this question is in the next section
(3) Reconciling the Relocation With the Child's Continuity and Stability That Is Favored By Florida Family Law
Lying beneath the black-letter law regarding custody time-sharing issues is the unspoken but powerful judicial preference to minimize disruption in a child’s life. By nature, a move to another state disrupts a child’s life and routine. At minimum, the move will take away at least some of the time he or she enjoys with the non-relocating parent. Judges need to hear very solid reasons why parents are willing to let these two things happen to their children.
Moving to be with your newest significant other, or making an extra dollar or two per hour at a new job will not suffice. The relocating parent must convince a judge that the child’s life will noticeably and directly improve because of the move. This standard is not cited by any statute or appellate opinion, but it is gleaned from my experience in several relocation cases. Examples of what could persuade a judge would be new educational opportunities afforded to the child, access to better pediatric health care, or a unique career opportunity only available to the parent at the new location. Please keep this in mind when making a decision to relocate with your child.
How We Can Help
If you are considering filing a petition for relocation, or if you decided to oppose one, I encourage you to call AAA Family Law at (407) 260-6001 and schedule an initial thirty-minute consultation.
The consultation will give you an opportunity to explain your relocation issue and what objectives you seek through the judicial process. I will then explain the legal strategy I will use to help achieve your objectives. Then I will quote you a flat retention fee that will let you know the full amount of what AAA Family Law will charge you for its services, before making any payment or signing any contract, not an hourly rate whose total amount is unpredictable. I look forward to representing you.
Our attorney retainer fees for a petition for relocation range between $2,000 and $3,000 depending on the complexity of the case. See Family Lawyer Retainer Fees for additional information on the costs of our services.
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