People get divorced and life goes on; sometimes that includes moving to new places. The Florida relocation statute contemplates that and is designed so that when one parent desires to move with the child, (1) the other parent has the right to say something about it and (2) the Court has a framework to follow for analyzing the facts and making its determination. Florida’s relocation statute, F.S. 61.13001, is the subject of much discussion and litigation among Florida’s divorce and family law attorneys.
In part, the Florida relocation statute requires a party obtain Court permission to move a child more than 50 miles away from where they are presently living once a case has been initiated. Many times, the person seeking to relocate is doing so for a better job and they have to move by a certain date…this time crunch makes things interesting. The other parent needs to be properly notified of the action, which usually involves having a process server serve them and takes a week or two. Once served, they’ll have 20 days to file a formal, written response to the petition. Most Judge’s require the parties mediate to attempt to resolve their issues, and, if unsuccessful, will then set the matter for an evidentiary hearing (that’s when you get to show up and plead your case to the Court). The problem is, it usually takes 2-3 months from the time you initiate the action until you get a hearing time (some Judge’s have busier calendars and it may take even longer to get time in front of them). If you’re supposed to move to start a new job in 1 month, what are you supposed to do?
The relocation statute does state that temporary relocation request should be given priority status on the Court’s calendar and that a temporary relocation request (i.e. to determine if the child should be allowed to temporarily relocate while the permanent relocation request is pending) should be heard within 30 days. That said, we have had situations where the client is supposed to move for a job, their former spouse is missing and/or they’re unable to have the spouse served, and the Court refuses to go ahead with a temporary relocation request because the other party had not yet been notified of the hearing. This is a sticky situation. You are essentially a single parent; the other parent hasn’t seen or talked to your child in 3-5 years. You have an offer to start a better paying job and need to move ASAP. If you just pick up and move, you risk that the Court enters a child pick-up order directing the local Sheriff’s office or police department to come and take the minor child away from you and return them to the other parent. If you stay and wait for the Court to rule before moving, you risk losing the job. This is a catch 22 where you need to have a lawyer involved to help you navigate the legal framework, timely get your case in front of the Judge, and help explain to the Judge the true nature of your situation so they feel comfortable granting you the relief you’re requesting.
While restrictions of F.S. 61.13001 accomplish the goals of the relocation statute in situations when there are two active and engaged parents, it becomes an unnecessary nightmare to navigate. If you find yourself in a divorce or paternity case where you, or the other parent, are seeking to relocate, you should reach out to Miller Law Firm to find out how we can help.