Written by Dr. Peggie Ward
As a family law professional it is essential to consider a number of factors in relocation cases. These factors are: the Best Interests of the Child, the Existing Time-Sharing Plan and the impact of the proposed relocation on the Time Sharing agreement, the reason for relocation as well as the distance of the relocation. The best interests standard is the court’s primary consideration. The impact on the child's education, social life, and relationship with the non-relocating parent are several of these factors. The child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent is crucial to address including how that relationship will be maintained despite the distance, such as through extended visitation during school breaks, holidays, or summers, and the use of technology for regular communication. The co-parenting relationship is crucial and the court will want assess the parent’s ability to maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship despite the proposed relocation. If the relocation is granted, the existing parent plan may need to be modified. It is helpful if attorney for the relocating parent to take into account: how to prepare for the move, including making necessary arrangements for school enrollment, healthcare, and support systems in the new location. It is also important to address the challenges if relocation is granted including: changes in timesharing, adjustment issues for the child and the relocating parent, and the need for professional intervention in case of emotional or psychological difficulties.
Additionally there are specific legal requirements in Florida for parental relocation cases, which include providing formal notice to the other parent and obtaining court approval for the relocation. The notice must comply with statutory requirements and include specific information, such as the new address, phone number, and proposed relocation date. Failure to provide proper notice may have legal consequences. It is important to ensure that all legal requirements are met and followed meticulously to avoid any negative repercussions in court. In relocation cases, the parent seeking to relocate has the burden of proving that the proposed relocation is in the best interests of the child. This means that the parent must present evidence and persuade the court that the relocation is in the child's best interests based on the relevant factors under Florida law.
It is also important to consider the age of the child. In Florida, if the child is 16 years old or older, their preference regarding the proposed relocation may be given more weight by the court. The court may take into consideration the child's wishes and preferences, although it is not the sole determining factor. The court will still consider the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration however, the child's age and maturity level may affect how much weight the court gives to their preferences. If the child is 16 or older and expresses a strong preference to either support or oppose the proposed relocation, the court may take their preference into account when evaluating the overall best interests of the child.
There is a role for other professionals in relocation cases. Collaboration with other professionals, such as counselors, psychologists, and financial experts, may help provide comprehensive support to the parents and address various aspects of the relocation case effectively. Working as a team can provide valuable insights and support for the parents and help them make informed decisions.
Relocation cases can be emotionally charged, and parents may have differing opinions and strong emotions about the proposed relocation. Professionals working with these families can help with using of conflict resolution and mediation skills. Therapists can provide emotional support to family members by creating a safe and non-judgmental space for them to express their feelings, fears, and concerns related to the relocation. Therapists can help family members process their emotions, manage stress, and develop coping strategies to navigate the changes associated with the proposed relocation. Therapists can also provide co-parenting counseling to help parents improve their communication and problem solving skills. Therapists can provide therapy specifically for children to help them cope with the changes associated with the proposed relocation.