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How Does Post-Divorce Relocation Affect Your Visitation Rights?

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Today’s society is more mobile than ever before. Since the middle of the 1990s, approximately one in five people change their residences every year. This has caused a major point of contention between separated or divorced parents in terms of child custody, because custodial parents who wish to relocate long distances with their children would be infringing on the visitation rights of the other parent.

Historically, this was not as big of a dilemma as it is today; before the 1980s, parents rarely went to court over relocation disputes because both parents were usually allowed to move without restriction. However, as shared parenting and equal timesharing became more common, disputes increased, with many non-custodial parents trying to prevent the other parent from relocating and interfering with their parenting rights.

The District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fifth District finally addressed the relocation issue in 1993 in the case of Mize v. Mize. This case helped determine a standard that could be applied to all cases where a parent requests relocation with their children. Each district previously had different approaches to this issue, but it was ultimately decided that relocation was favorable as long as it was in good faith and not motivated by a desire to interfere with the parental rights of the other parent. A Florida statute related to relocation was approved in June of 1997.

The Florida Relocation Statute, passed in 2006, replaced the 1997 statute. Parents who wish to relocate with their children must abide by its provisions.

According to the 2006 statute:

  • A parent is free to relocate with the child if they have reached an agreement with the other parent, which must be signed and approved by court order.
  • If an agreement cannot be reached, the parent wishing to relocate can serve the other parent with a notice of intent to relocate to the other parent with all details pertaining to the move, including the date of the move, the address and phone number of the new residence, and a proposed visitation schedule.
  • Notices must include an “objection clause” that will allow the non-custodial parent to raise an objection about the relocation. The custodial parent must then prove why the move would be in the best interests of the child.
  • Courts will make their final decision based on the following factors:
    • The quality of the relationship between the child and the primary resident parent
    • The developmental stage, age, and needs of the child
    • The potential impact that relocation will have on the child
    • The maintenance of contact with the other parent
    • The preference of the child
    • Any reasons for or against the move
    • Career opportunities available to either parent
    • Any past history of neglect or abuse
    • Any other relevant factors affecting the child’s best interests

This statute was further amended in 2009, making a number of small changes for the sake of clarification.

International moves pose even greater concerns for parents. Child abduction is a legitimate concern, as is the fact that it is logistically much more difficult to maintain a relationship with a child if they move out of the country. Whether the relocation is short- or long-term, the non-traveling parent can address their concerns in one of three ways:

  • They can register their child’s passports with the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) so that if a passport application is submitted, they will be notified.
  • Both parents can draft an agreement outlining the terms of the international travel.
  • The non-travelling parent may request that the other parent post a bond that will cover any legal fees that would be incurred in the event that the child is wrongfully retained in a foreign country.

All relocation cases are different and are highly dependent upon their individual circumstances. If you have further questions on a relocation issue, please do not hesitate to contact a Jacksonville family law attorney from Owenby Law, P.A. For a free initial case review, please call us at (904) 770-3141.