Miami Family Lawyers Manage Parental Relocation Cases

Protecting your child custody and visitation rights when circumstances change

One of the most difficult child custody issues to resolve is when a custodial parent wishes to move out of the area or out of the state with the children. If the move were to occur, what would become of the noncustodial parent’s rights? What would the impact on the children be? To prevent harm to those parties, courts scrutinize proposed moves carefully under the guidance the Florida legislature has provided in the state’s relocation statute. At Rafool, PLLC, we have extensive experience in child custody disputes throughout the state of Florida, including relocation hearings. We represent parents on either side of the issue, working tirelessly to uphold their rights and advance their goals through vigorous litigation and by brokering creative solutions.

How Florida’s relocation statute works

Custodial parents have many reasons for relocating: a new job opportunity, a new relationship, or an escape from painful memories following a difficult divorce. All of these are valid reasons for moving yourself, but if you have a child custody order from a Florida court, your reasons must also apply to the children you want to take with you.

Under Florida law, a “relocation” means “a change in the location…at least 50 miles from that residence [contained in the child custody order],…for at least 60 consecutive days not including a temporary absence…for…vacation, education, or…health care for the child.” A relocation that triggers the law must get court approval. The statute provides two processes for gaining approval:

  • By agreement — The parents can settle the issue between themselves and present a new parenting plan to the court for approval. The new court order will then replace the existing child custody order.
  • By petition — If parents cannot reach an agreement, the parent who wishes to move can file a petition with the court and receive a hearing on the issue. The parent who objects to the move must file a response within 20 days, stating reasons why the court should not grant permission.

The court can grant a temporary injunction preventing the relocation. In deciding whether to permit the move, the court weighs a variety of factors, including:

  • The child’s relationships with both parents and other significant persons in the child’s life
  • The age and needs of the child, and the likely impact of the relocation on the child’s welfare
  • The feasibility of preserving the child’s relationship with the responding parent through alternative arrangements
  • The child’s preference, considering the child’s age and maturity
  • Whether the relocation will enhance the petitioning parent’s quality of life
  • The reasons each parent is seeking or opposing the relocation
  • Each parent’s current employment and economic circumstances
  • Whether the petitioner has good-faith reasons for the relocation
  • The extent to which the responding parent has fulfilled financial obligations, including child support, spousal support, and marital property obligations
  • Any history of substance abuse or domestic violence by either parent
  • Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child

The petitioning parent has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that relocation is in the best interest of the child. If the court believes the petitioner has met that burden, the burden shifts to the responding parent to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the relocation is contrary to the best interest of the child.

If the court approves the relocation, the court has the discretion to modify the existing parenting plan to ensure the responding parent continues to enjoy frequent, meaningful contact with the children. In many cases, a responding parent who has had visitation rights may receive joint physical custody under a modified parenting plan.

Our attorneys understand how important your relationship with your children is. We are determined to uphold your parental rights while working toward creative solutions that advance the best interests of your children.

Contact our Miami family law firm for reliable counsel on relocation issues

If you wish to relocate or want to object to the relocation of your children, the experienced child custody attorneys at Rafool, PLLC, can help. For immediate assistance, call us at (305) 567-9400 or contact our Miami office online  to schedule an initial consultation.