The Complexities of Parental Relocation in Divorce

Last Friday, I had the privilege of addressing the annual Family Law Board Certification Seminar in Orlando for the 13th consecutive year. Hosted by the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Florida Chapter, this is the largest, most prestigious advanced family law seminar in the state. This year’s audience included 1,600+ attorneys and judges.

This year, I presented on the topic of Parental Relocation in divorce cases, specifically when one parent seeks to move with their minor child over the objection of the other.

When both parties agree about a relocation, the matter can be handled rather simply through a consent agreement that outlines the time-sharing rights of the non-relocating party. However, when both parents do not see eye-to-eye, the burden of proof falls to the relocating parent to show the best interests of the child are being served. As you might imagine, this can be a very sensitive, complex issue…even with statutes in place to guide the process.

Prior to 1997, Florida had no true statutory authority that governed child relocation. Courts began acknowledging that the child’s wellbeing should be more of a determining factor and, in October 2006, “Parental Relocation With A Child,” or Section 61.13001 of the Florida Statutes went into effect…since amended in both 2008 and 2009. The statute basically helps define, clarify and facilitate the relocation process.

Today, Florida divorce laws are among national models for protecting the rights of children and, based upon my years of family law experience, I guided the group through the “who,” “when” and “how” of current law. For example: which parent is required to file a petition for relocation, under what circumstances, and the proper steps to take in the process.

In addition, my presentation examined rules enacted to determine optimum outcomes, how we arrived at those guidelines, and an analysis of supreme court and appellate court rulings on implementation of the Florida statute adopted to protect children’s best interests.

Ultimately, though, that leaves the final decision to a judge…not the parents. Which is why I believe parental agreement is always the best, and least detrimental, option for any family unit.

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Principal & shareholder of Gladstone, Weissman, Hirschberg & Schneider, Jeffrey A. Weissman, P.A., is a “2016 Family Lawyer of the Year-Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale & Miami” by The Best Lawyers in America and a Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator and Guardian Ad Litem.

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