Florida has a relocation law, 61.13001, that everyone who lives in Florida should know about. If there is any order establishing paternity or the parents are married, it applies. The law basically establishes a procedure that needs to be followed if a parent wants to move with the child out of state. It makes sure that the other party gets notice, in writing, of the details of what the moving parent wants to do, and then provides for the non-moving parent to be able to object, in writing.
If this procedure is not followed, it is not uncommon for the courts to require the child to be returned to Florida (usually when the non moving party goes to the judge to complain about the move within a reasonably short time after the move).
The objection also has some specific requirements, including the basis for objection, and a statement about the amount and quality of involvement and contact the objecting parent has had with the child.
The Court then becomes involved to determine whether the move can happen at a trial. The judge will look at the best interests of the child, including the improvement in the moving parent’s financial situation, relative quality of life issues, family contacts gained or lost by the move, and very importantly, the quality of the alternative contact schedule possible for the non moving parent, considering time, distance, and cost issues.
If the process if followed by the moving parent, there is no presumption against the move being authorized, but the moving parent has the burden of proof to show by a preponderance of evidence that the move is in the child’s best interests, and then the non-moving parent then has the burden by a preponderance of evidence that it is not in the child’s best interests. The judge will look at all of the factors for and against the move, including the child’s age and developmental stage, and reasonable preferences of a mature child.
As with so many conflicts in family court, the way the parties deal with the technical requirements of the system will set the tone for the case. Once a parent, knowingly or unknowingly, starts out on the wrong foot it can be difficult to get back out of the defensive posture. Taking the high road and doing things the right way with a move in this situation will definitely be worth the costs.