Relocating With a Minor Child

Q:  I was divorced in 2005 after a 5 year marriage.  At the time of the divorce, my son was 3 years old.  The divorce was very stressful.  Since the divorce, I have completed nursing school and want to relocate to Georgia where my mother, who has recently retired has relocated as well.  I will be able to obtain a great  job in Georgia fairly quickly and I expect my life and the life of our son to improve as a result of the move.  My ex objects to the move.  Even though my ex is always traveling for business, now there are "concerns" about being able to see our son if I move.   I want to get on with my life.  What should I do?

Movin’ on in Miami Beach

A:  I recently tried a case like this one.  In 2006, the Florida legislature passed section 61.13001 of the Florida Statutes concerning a residential parent’s relocation with a minor child.  THe statute was again amended in 2008.  If you are moving more than 50 miles from the place where the court designated you as the primary residential parent for your son, the statute clearly applies.  Be forewarded, however, every judge I know considers relocation cases the most difficult to decide.  It is not enough that the move be for the convenience of the relocating party.  As you will see by the requiements for a Petition to Relocate, you have to give real thought to every aspect of the relocation including the logistics of revised timesharing and, most importantly, how the relocation serves the best interests of the minor child.

Under the Relocation Statute, you are required to file a petition that describes, among other things: (i) a description of the location of the intended new residence, including the state, city, and specific physical address, if known; (ii) the mailing address of the intended new residence, if not the same as the physical address, if known; (iii) the home telephone number of the intended new residence, if known; (iv) the date of the intended move or proposed relocation; (v) a detailed statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation of the child. If one of the reasons for the relocation is based upon a job offer which has been reduced to writing, that written job offer must be attached to the Notice of Intent to Relocate and (vi) a proposal for the revised post relocation schedule of visitation together with a proposal for the post relocation transportation arrangements necessary to effectuate visitation with the child.  Once the Notice of Intent to Relocate is served on the other parent (and any other person entitled to time-sharing), that person has thirty (30) days to object to the relocation

Also, if your divorce was resolved by a marital settlement agreement, the agreement may contain certain restrictions or other requirements that must also be considered when evaluating a proposed relocation by a residential parent.  If the parent receiving notice does not object in time, his or her rights can be severely compromised. Do not relocate without consulting an experienced family lawyer.  

If there is an agreement concerning the proposed relocation, have your lawyer prepare a written agreement that reflects the relocation, the consent of all parties to the relocation and all other related issues such as time-sharing following the relocation.  Do not relocate without following the Relocation Statute.  Any objection to a proposed relocation must be signed under oath and  include the specific factual basis supporting the reasons for seeking a prohibition of the relocation, including a statement of the amount of participation or involvement the objecting party currently has or has had in the life of the child.

If you cannot agree, the Court will hold a hearing and listen to evidence about the proposed relocation.  The hearing can be very complicated and should not be done without the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.  At the end of the day, the relocation will not be approved if it is not in the best interest of the child.   

After timely notice, the Court can consider entering an order temporarily approving relocation after a preliminary hearing if it appears that there was a likelihood of the court approving the relocation after a full hearing. The Relocation Statute makes no presumptions in favor or against relocation.  It is, however, important that your case for or against relocation be carefully prepared and presented. 

So, you can go to Georgia, but you will have to comply with the requirements of the Relocation Statute first.  There is not room in this column for a detailed discussion of all of the factors that a court considers but the court will consider the interests and motivations of everyone whose interests are at issue. 

Finally, the children of divorced parents often find themselves in the middle of very complicated and emotionally difficult situations such as a parent’s desire to relocate.   It is easy to get caught focusing on the legal requirements while forgetting the emotional toll that these kinds of proceedings can take on the children.   Before relocating  you might also want to seek the assistance of a qualified mental health professional to help your son with the transition

If you have a question for Mr. Kofsky, you can contact him at 305.393-8563 or  mkofsky@kofskylaw.com

Martin Kofsky, founding partner of Kofsky & Associates, is an experienced  family and marital lawyer with offices in Aventura, Florida and aditional offices in Broward County and Palm Beach County, Florida.  Visit our website at www.kofskylaw.com.

Main Office:  Kofsky & Associates, P.L., 20801 Biscayne Boulevard, Suite 403, Aventura, Florida 33180; Ph. 305-393-8563, Fax.888-900.2770

We also have offices in Broward County and Palm Beach County, Florida.

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Under the Florida Relocation Statute, you are required to file a petition that describes, among other things: (i) a description of the location of the intended new residence, including the state, city, and specific physical address, if known; (ii) the mailing address of the intended new residence, if not the same as the physical address, if known; (iii) the home telephone number of the intended new residence, if known; (iv) the date of the intended move or proposed relocation; (v) a detail

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