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Consequences of Wrongful Relocation


Family in need of attorney

The Gainesville Family Law Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. discuss consequences of wrongful relocation in child custody matters. Relocating a child without complying with the requirements set forth by Florida’s relocation statute, can result in a variety of legal consequences for the party in violation. Consequently, it is vitally important to seek consultation with a family law attorney experienced in handling relocation matters prior to relocating the child, if you have any questions or concerns regarding the relocation with a child.

One consequence of wrongfully relocating a child is that it subjects the party in violation to contempt proceedings. There are two types of contempt—civil contempt and criminal contempt. Depending on the circumstances involved, a party in violation of wrongful relocation can be held in civil contempt, criminal contempt, or both. Either types of contempt can result in imprisonment, the imposition of fines, or other relief that court deems appropriate.

The most significant distinction between civil and criminal contempt is that criminal contempt is intended to punish a party for conduct that interferes with or obstructs justice. Civil contempt, on the other hand, is intended to coerce the party into complying with an order of the court, rather than punish, and therefore affords the party alleged to be in contempt an opportunity to purge the contempt.

In addition to contempt proceedings, there are other legal proceedings that may be initiated to compel the return of a child. For example, a nonrelocating party may seek a temporary order, which demands the return of a child, prevents future relocation, or orders other appropriate remedial relief.

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Aside from general consequences extending directly from contempt or similar proceedings, such as fines, imprisonment, or requiring the return of a child, there are also other consequences that can significantly affect the manner in which the court will evaluate future determinations regarding the child. For instance, as provided by statute, wrongful relocation may be taken into account in any initial or post-judgment action seeking a determination or modification associated with the parenting plan, time-sharing schedule, a parent’s access to the child, or as:

  • A factor in making a determination regarding the relocation of a child
  • A factor in determining whether the parenting plan should be modified
  • A basis for ordering the temporary or permanent return of the child

In addition, the wrongful relocation of a child can serve as sufficient cause:

  • To order the parent or other person seeking to relocate the child to pay reasonable expenses and attorney’s fees incurred by the party objecting to the relocation
  • For the award of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, including interim travel expenses incident to access or time-sharing or securing the return of the child

Taking the time to consider the remedies, procedures, and consequences of wrongful relocation can be beneficial to any party having a legal interest associated with access to a child, whether relocating or nonrelocating. For a nonrelocating parent or other person entitled access to or time-sharing with a child, peace of mind can be gained through understanding that there are remedial measures available to protect your legal interests. Alternately, if you are the party that has relocated with a child, and you have concerns that such actions may be in violation of Florida’s relocation statute, it is important to know that there may be options available to prevent or limit consequences. However, it is critical that you discuss your legal rights with an attorney as soon as issues or concerns arise.