Relocations By Divorced Parents
By Orlando Divorce and Relocation Attorney Eduardo Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2005
What You Need To Do As A Divorced Parent Before Relocating
Custodial parents planning to move more than fifty miles from where they live with their children must file a notice of relocation with their county court. The non-custodial parents can also file with the court a written objection to their children's relocation within thirty days of being served the relocation notice.
The Do’s and Dont’s of Relocating With Your Children
After a Divorce
Within Florida family law, relocation cases present the biggest gap between public perception and the controlling statute. This lack of knowledge stems from the recency of new statutory enactments dealing with the relocation of the parent with the children to a new town, state or country.
Many of my divorced clients know some of the fundamental concepts of divorce, alimony, and child support. But they admit ignorance when they ask me about the possibility of relocating with their children. I then give them my divorce attorney “lecture” about Section 61.13001, Florida Statutes, which governs the relocation of divorced parents. To the readers of this blog I offer this list relocation “Do’s and Don’ts”
As your divorce attorney, on relocation, I urge you to follow these rules:
Do Prepare This For the Court
Benefits of a New Job
Perform a cost-benefit analysis of your proposed relocation. If a new job awaits you at your desired destination, obtain a precise income figure. Section 61.13001(7)(e) and (g) list the economic and employment benefits of the proposed move as factors that the trial court must consider. Furthermore, if you or your current spouse are starting a job in the new town, a job offer must be reduced to writing, and included in the petition for relocation. Section 61.13001, Florida Statutes.
Time Sharing Plan
Draft a new proposed time-sharing plan for your children and the other parent that will be implemented if the trial court grants your relocation petition. Section 61.13001(7)(c), Florida Statutes lists as another factor: “[T]he feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-relocating parent . . . and the child.” Essentially, the more your proposed move will compromise your children’s relationship with your ex-spouse, the less likely your petition will be granted. While a court does not require that the other parent’s time with the children remain the same (since this will be impossible in a typical relocation), the ability of your ex-spouse to sustain a “meaningful relationship” with them is critical.
Do not be dismissive of the bond of your ex-spouse with your children. Instead, think of ways to help sustain it after the move. Also, just like with the job offer, you must include in your petition the actual proposed schedule, and an offer to allocate travel expenses. Section 61.13001(7)(c), Florida Statutes.
A Statement of Preferences From the Children
Consider having your teen children voice to the judge their preference for moving. While Florida law does not have a minimum age for children testifying, most family law judges will want to hear from children between 13 and 17. In fact, Section 61.13001(7)(d), Florida Statutes lists the children’s preferences as a factor. Keep in mind however, that the children’s preferences cannot be the determining factor, just one factor among several.
Do Not Do These Things
Make The Separation of the Children From Your Ex-Spouse a Reason for the Move
Do not purposely antagonize your ex-spouse during this process. Actually, this advice applies for all contested custody issues, but particularly for relocation cases. I advise my relocation clients that they cannot give the impression that they’re relocating just to create more distance between their children and their ex-spouses. If a family law judge senses this, your petition is doomed. Two of the factors in the above-cited statute address whether you’re moving for good-faith reasons. Obviously, sticking it to your ex is not a good-faith reason.
Expect a Resolution that is Both Quick and Final
The relocation statutes allows the trial court to conduct a hearing within 30 days of the filing of the petition, and even grant a temporary relocation. But you will still be required to return to Florida for a final hearing several months later. While it seems counter-intuitive to require a second hearing, the statute expressly calls for it. You must create a long-term plan that takes this into account.
Put All of Your Eggs in the Relocation Basket
Section 61.13001, Florida Statutes places the burden of proof on the moving party to demonstrate why the move is in the best interest of the children, by a preponderance of the evidence. No presumption exists in your favor, even if you want to move for good-faith reasons. Therefore, in addition to a long-term plan for the move, you need a “Plan B” in the event that your petition for relocation is denied.
How We Can Help
If you’re interested in relocating with your children more than 50 miles from your current residence, or in objecting to the relocation of your ex-spouse I encourage you to call AAA Family Law at 407-260-6001, and schedule your free thirty-minute initial consultation. There is an hourly charge for additional consultation time. See Family Lawyer Retainer Fees.
A this free consultation you will explain your situation and what you would like to accomplish and I will outline what can be legally done to protect your interests and those of your children.
Our attorney retainer fees for a petition for relocation range between $2,000 and $3,000 depending on the complexity of the case.
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