Can Divorced Parents Relocate with their Children?
The logistics involved with adhering to a parenting time schedule is bound to challenge any parent at some point. Divorced parents do have an interest in ensuring their child has regular contact with an ex-spouse, but the realities of transporting the child between both households can, and probably will, create difficulties from time-to-time. This issue exists even when parents live in close proximity to one another, but are greatly compounded if a parent later decides to relocate to a distant city or state. Because of the significant ramifications relocation has on a parent’s child custody rights, any time a parent wants to relocate with a child, approval must first be obtained from the other parent and/or a court. Moving a child far away from the other parent without prior authorization can bring serious consequences, including criminal charges and restrictions on child custody.
In a real-world example of how serious it is to move a child without permission, a man was recently sentenced to 14-months in jail after he left Oregon against a court order, and hid is daughter in the Orlando area for over two months. Any time a parent unreasonably interferes with the custody rights of the other parent, he/she risks serious legal consequences, and unauthorized long-distance relocations fall into this category. An overview of the procedure to legally move a child when custody is shared with another parent will follow below.
When Relocation Authorization Is Required
Understandably, the law is not interested in regulating every move a parent, who shares custody, makes with a child. The law is only interested in intervening when the move would impact how often the other parent would be able to see the child. Thus, when a move would take the child 50 or more miles away from the child’s principal residence as of the last time a custody order was issued by a court, the consent of the other parent and/or approval by a court is necessary prior to the relocation.
Relocation by Agreement vs. Petition
As noted above, relocation is permitted if the parent moving with the child first obtains the other parent’s written consent or court permission. Valid relocation agreements between the parents must contain:
- consent to the relocation;
- access or a time-sharing schedule for the non-relocating parent; and
- transportation arrangements related to access or time-sharing.
Absent written consent, the relocating parent must petition a court to approve the relocation, and the petition must include the reason behind the relocation, including a copy of a job offer, if applicable.
When a parent seeking relocation with a child petitions a court for approval, the other parent must receive a copy of the petition, and has 20 days to file an objection to the request, which must include the basis for the objection. In this situation, the court makes the final determination on whether to allow the relocation, and bases its decision on the evaluation of certain factors, including:
- the nature and quality of the child’s relationship with each parent;
- the age and needs of the child, and how the relocation would likely affect the child’s physical, emotional and educational development;
- how feasible it is to preserve the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent under a different time-sharing arrangement;
- the child’s preference, if the child is of sufficient age and understanding to make a reasoned decision;
- if the relocation would improve the child’s and relocating parent’s quality of life; and
- if the relocation request was made in good faith, and if the objecting parent is current on financial obligations to the other parent.
Consult a Family Law Attorney
Relocation with a child is a substantial issue for both parents, and the services of a family law attorney should be sought to ensure all potential issues are addressed to avoid unnecessary future conflicts. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. is well-versed on the laws related to relocation, and is available to answer your questions on this issue. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+