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Orlando Move-Away Lawyers
Relocating with Children? Call the Virga Law Firm, P.A.!
One of the most heart wrenching family law cases our Orlando relocation attorneys encounter is child relocation. Relocation cases arise when one parent, following a child custody case or divorce, is in need or wishes to move a significant amount of miles away from their current location, and the parent desires to take the parties’ child with them.
Under Florida law, this scenario is covered by a specific Florida relocation statute. The statute spells out clear and serious consequences for parents who violate this statute. Furthermore, it states what is required to have a court grant a relocation, as well as addresses the rights of the parent who objects to the child being relocated.
Relocation is not automatic under the Florida relocation statute. Th experienced attorneys at our Orlando office will advise you through each requirement under the statute whether you are in need of relocation or object to the relocation of your child.
Our firm is committed to advocating your rights while still keeping the best interest of your child as the focus of the case. Call us today at (800) 822-5170 or fill out a contact form to get started!
In order to file a complaint or petition for a divorce, you must meet the state’s residency requirements at the time, which vary from state to state. Some require a few weeks while others might require a few months.
In the state of Florida, you must be a resident for 6 months prior to filing the petition for divorce. This means that you cannot live in the state for a couple of months, leave for a month, return and stay for another couple of months, and then expect to meet the requirements. Your residency must be continuous.
Moving When Children Are Involved
Remember, when you filed for divorce, you gave your state jurisdiction over you. This jurisdiction applies to your children as well, so you will have to file an additional petition with the court to ask for permission to leave and to take your children with you.
Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), the state where you filed for your divorce will usually maintain jurisdiction until the divorce is finalized. While there might be some exceptions to the UCCJEA, under no circumstances should you ever take your children with you before seeking the advice of an attorney and taking proper legal actions. Otherwise, this act could be considered kidnapping and irreparably harm your chances of obtaining child custody.
This matter becomes a bit simpler if you would like to relocate in the future, after the divorce is finalized. You can request a modification to your child custody agreement and, if the court determines that the move is in the best interests of the children, your request might be granted.
Can both parties agree to the relocation?
Florida’s relocation statute addresses the requirements of a parent’s wishing to relocating, even if both parents agree to the minor child’s relocation. If the parties are in agreement, and the parent not relocating has consented to the other parent’s relocation with the child, then the parties must execute a written agreement. Within the written agreement, a new parenting plan and time-sharing schedule is required.
This plan and schedule must specifically address the geographic dilemmas and travel arrangements that occur when trying to facilitate a long-distance time-sharing plan between the child and the non-relocating parent. Once this agreement is formally executed by the parties, the court will typically approve the agreement of the parties without the necessity of a hearing. However, a hearing may be necessary before issuing an order approving the relocation if one of the parents requests a hearing.
Contested Relocation Cases
Very rarely do both parents consent to the relocation of a child. Our Orlando move-away attorneys are experienced in defending clients’ parental rights in contested relocation cases. If the parties cannot reach an agreement regarding the relocation of a child, then the matter must be decided by the court. Per Florida statute, a petition to relocate must be filed with the court, and the document must contain certain information regarding the move. Failure to include any of these elements will prevent the relocation until all of the elements are present within the petition.
Relocating without complying with the required elements of the petition will subject the relocating parent to at least one of the following:
- Contempt of court
- A court order to the return the child
- A basis for the court to deny relocation
- Change the current time-sharing schedule
- Paying the non-relocating parent’s attorney's fees for defending the inappropriate relocation
Alternatively, if the petition to relocate is properly prepared and the non-relocating parent fails to timely file an objection, the court shall grant the petition without a hearing. In either event, at the conclusion of the case the judge will enter an order granting or denying the relocation. They will also issue a new parenting plan and time-sharing schedule that addresses the issues raised by the move.
What are the factors the court will look at to determine whether relocation is in a child’s best interest?
The court will consider the following when deciding whether or not to grant relocation:
- The child's current relationship with the relocating parent and with the non-relocating parent and other significant persons in the child's life
- The age and the corresponding needs of the minor child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child's development
- The ability of the court to preserve the current relationship between the non-relocating parent and the minor child through substitute arrangements
- The child's preference
- Whether the relocation will enhance the general quality of life for both the relocating parent and the child
- The reasons cited by each parent either supporting or opposing the relocation
- The current economic circumstances of each parent and whether the proposed relocation is necessary to improve those economic circumstances
- Whether the relocation is sought in good faith, including the extent to which the non-relocating parent has fulfilled his or her financial obligations to the relocating parent
- The career and other opportunities available to the objecting parent if he or she also relocates to stay near the child
- Any history of substance abuse or domestic violence by either parent, including the failure or success of any attempts at rehabilitation
- Any other factor affecting the best interest of the child or any factor related to general custody considerations
Can the court grant a relocation on a temporary basis while the relocation case proceeds to trial?
The court may grant a temporary relocation while the case is being litigated. Our Orlando relocation lawyers know that time is of the essence in relocation cases. A court must conduct a temporary relocation hearing within thirty (30) days of a party’s request for a temporary hearing. At the temporary relocation hearing the court will look at all of the factors listed above, and whether it is likely that the relocation will be granted at a final relocation hearing. Our attorneys are skilled at presenting the best case possible to ensure your stance on the matter is clearly addressed with the court.
What if a parent relocates a child without following Florida’s relocation statute?
Florida’s relocation statute grants the court great power to deal with parents who relocate with a child without the other parents’ consent or a court order. Our Orlando office will take swift action to enforce Florida’s statute if this has happened to you.
The statute expressly grants the court the authority to find the parent in contempt of court. The court is also granted the authority to order the child be returned to the state, in addition to the authority to force the offending parent to reimburse the other parent travel costs that were incurred to spend time with the child while the relocating parent is in contempt of court. The court statutorily has to consider the unauthorized relocation in future custody determinations.
Our Orlando relocation attorneys are experienced litigators focused on obtaining our clients’ desired results. Our family law attorneys have more than 100 years of combined experienced litigating cases, and are committed to putting that experience to work protecting your rights. Call our Orlando office today if you are facing a relocation issue.
Gerard Virga Founding Attorney
David Lohr Executive Director/Attorney
Chad Self Fort Walton Beach Managing Attorney
Tracie Phillips Orlando Managing Attorney
William West Ritchie Panama City Managing Attorney
Taylor Tippel Panama City Beach Managing Attorney
Andrea Ansley Attorney
Christopher Melendez Attorney
April Hand Operations Manager and Florida Registered Paralegal
Danny Durnbaugh Chief Financial Officer
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