Even after your divorce is finalized, circumstances will change and the post-divorce agreement will need to be altered. This can happen for any variety of reasons, but when it impacts the economic or emotional well-being of the children, the court will have the final say. When it comes to relocating the children, the court can block a parent from taking the children out-of-state under the threat of law. In fact, a parent who defies a court order and removes their children from the state can be charged with kidnapping. The following outlines the legal process of relocating your children to a new state after your divorce.
A Petition for Relocation: What is it?
If the parent with primary custody of the children (the parent with whom the children reside) decides to move more than 50 miles from their current residence, they will need to petition the court before they do so. They may not, for instance, unilaterally decide that it is in the best interests of the children to move with them. They must have a new agreement in place before relocating with their children.
Since this will result in the old agreement being completely scrubbed, the process of litigating the child custody issue begins anew. This can be costly, but in some situations, it will also be unavoidable. An experienced Tampa divorce attorney can help you draft a new agreement that will meet your needs and your children's needs as you move forward from your divorce.
How Soon After Petitioning the Court Can I Move?
Once your petition is filed, you may ask the court to approve the move on a temporary basis. This works best when both parents are in agreement or the other parent's permission is not relevant to the case. In cases in which the move is likely to be granted, the court will allow the move to begin.
When both parents are on the same page, have discussed the move, and have a new visitation schedule in place to accommodate both children and parents, the court will find little reason to block the move. It is only when the non-custodial parent fights the petition that the motion to move the children will end up being litigated in court for a long time before it's decided. Even in these situations, the court recognizes that a parent has a financial duty to care for their children, so the parent can claim that the move is in their best interests. In this case, it will take longer to get approval because the court must rule on the issue after listening to arguments from both parties.
What Factors are Considered During a Contested Relocation?
So, one parent wants to move 50 miles away or even out of state with the children. The other parent, knowing that they will have less access to the children, decides to fight the request. The issue now goes before a judge who will consider the following factors:
- Economic factors - Typically, parents move out of state because they either got a new job or are going to live with relatives who can help them with the financial and emotional needs of the children. When the parent can successfully argue that the move will improve the quality of the children's lives, the parent requesting the move is much more likely to get a favorable ruling.
- Educational factors - Parents relocating their children often tout the educational opportunities of the new district over the old district. This will help the judge decide the matter in their favor if all other factors are equal.
- Involvement in the child's life - The court will consider the involvement of each parent in the child's life when ruling on a move.
- Child support payments - If the spouse denying the motion to relocate has not been timely in making child support payments, the court will take their request to block the motion less seriously.
- The child's preference - If the child is of sufficient age, the child's preference will be considered in the final decision. However, the child's best interests don't always equate to what the child would prefer.
- Other factors - Generally speaking, a parent who has 100% time-sharing or 100% custody of their children will be able to make unilateral decisions concerning their whereabouts. However, it is exceedingly rare for a parent to be denied any parenting time in Florida.
Your Attorney's Job in a Relocation Motion
If you are deciding to move, your attorney will work with your former spouse's attorney to reach an agreement that is acceptable to all parties. If your former spouse contests the move, then we will build a case centered around why the move is in the best interests of the children.
If you are a parent who is hoping to prevent your spouse from moving out of state with your children, our attorneys can help build a case blocking the move by showing all the ways it is not in the child's best interests. Often, this is the easier argument to make. The court will tend to default on the position that the status quo is what is best for the children. The court presumes that children do not like major changes in their lives, would prefer to stay in their current school district, have access to the friends they have always had, and will benefit from continuity. By contrast, changing an existing agreement requires that the petitioner meet a specific burden of proof. Without specifically delineated reasons, courts will simply enforce the original order.
Talk to a Tampa Divorce Lawyer Today About Your Wish to Relocate Your Children
If you want to move more than 50 miles from your current residence, you will need the court's permission if you seek to bring your children with you. Conversely, if you want to block a petition to move, you can provide your reasoning for preventing your former spouse from moving your children away from you. In either event, the Florida Divorce Law Group can help build your case and argue for the best interests of you and your children. Call today to learn more.