In my practice, one of the biggest mistakes I see parents make most often is relocating their child without permission from the other parent or the courts. This can cause parents to temporarily or permanently lose majority timesharing of their children and can create a nightmare for their personal and professional lives. So the best advice I can give anyone with children is do not relocate your child without first consulting with a qualified family law attorney.
Now what exactly qualifies as relocation? A “Relocation”, as defined in §61.l300l (l)(e), as a change in the location of the principal residence of a parent or other person from his or her principal place of residence at the time of the last order establishing or modifying timesharing or at the time of filing the pending action to establish or modify timesharing that is more than 50 miles away from that residence.
It is a change in that residence for a period of 60 consecutive days or more not including temporary absence from the principal residence for purposes of vacation, education, or the provision of health care for the child.
If the parties are in agreement as to a relocation, the parents can enter into a written agreement that reflects their consent, defines the time-sharing rights for the non-relocating party, and, if necessary, any transportation arrangements. If there is no written agreement, the parent seeking relocation shall notify the other parent and every other person entitled to access to, or time-sharing with, the child by serving a petition to relocate, which shall be signed under oath and contain specific information regarding the proposed relocation, including a description of the location of the intended new residence (state, city and address, if known), the mailing address and home telephone number of the intended new residence (if known), the date of the intended move or proposed relocation, the specific reasons for the proposed relocation, including proof of any written job offer, if that is one of the reasons, and a proposal for the revised post-relocation schedule of time-sharing, including transportation arrangements.
In addition, the Petition must include, in all capital letters, a statement advising that a response objecting to the proposed relocation must be filed and served within 20 days after service of the Petition, failing which the relocation will be permitted without further notice or a hearing, unless it is not in the best interests of the child.
The party seeking to relocate has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the relocation is in the best interest of the child. If that burden is met, the burden shifts to the non-relocating party to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child. §61.13001(8).
If relocation is permitted, the Court may, in its discretion, order contact with the non-relocating parent, including access, time-sharing, telephone, internet, webcam, and other arrangements sufficient to ensure that the child has frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with the non-relocating party, if financially affordable and in the best interest of the child. If applicable, the court shall specify how the transportation costs will be allocated and may adjust child support, considering the costs of transportation and the respective net incomes of the parents. §61.13001(9)(a)-(b).
This relocation statute applies to parents who have paternity/ time-sharing previously ordered by the court or that have a pending paternity/time-sharing case filed with the court. If the parents are not married and there is no court ordered paternity/time-sharing or pending paternity/time-sharing action, then either parent can relocate without issue. For example, mom and dad have a baby out of wedlock. Mom is the primary care giver and dad sees the child occasionally or on weekends. Dad makes the mistake of not filing a paternity action (or custody action) as it is commonly referred to. Mom can pick up and move anywhere she wants with the baby and there isn’t anything that dad can do about it. Had he filed a petition to establish paternity, she would have been prevented from relocating, and subject to the court’s contempt powers to return the child back “home”.
So to all the single parents out there, you should file a formal petition to establish paternity, time-sharing and child support as soon as your child is born. If you have any questions regarding relocation or establishing paternity, then please contact my office for more information. My office is in Jacksonville, but I proudly serve clients throughout Florida.