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Contesting Child Relocation


Family in need of attorney

When a parent, or other person entitled to access or time-sharing with a child, objects to the relocation of a child, the relocation may be contested. If a petition to relocate has already been filed, a response to the petition, objecting to relocation, must be made in writing, filed with the court, and served on the parent and any other person seeking to relocate, within 20 days after service of the petition to relocate. Florida Statute 61.003(5) sets forth the procedural components required to properly assert an objection:

OBJECTION TO RELOCATION.—An answer objecting to a proposed relocation must be verified and include the specific factual basis supporting the reasons for seeking a prohibition of the relocation, including a statement of the amount of participation or involvement the objecting party currently has or has had in the life of the child.

Failure to timely object to a petition to relocate can result in the court’s approval for relocation, without further notice or hearing, unless the relocation is not in the best interests of the child. Florida Statute § 61.13001(2)(d) provides:

If the other parent and any other person entitled to access to or time-sharing with the child fails to timely file a response objecting to the petition to relocate, it is presumed that the relocation is in the best interest of the child and that the relocation should be allowed, and the court shall, absent good cause, enter an order specifying that the order is entered as a result of the failure to respond to the petition and adopting the access and time-sharing schedule and transportation arrangements contained in the petition. The order may be issued in an expedited manner without the necessity of an evidentiary hearing. If a response is timely filed, the parent or other person may not relocate, and must proceed to a temporary hearing or trial and obtain court permission to relocate.

As the statute provides, the consequence of failing to respond to a petition to relocate can result in the presumption that the relocation is in the best interest of the child, followed by the court’s entry of an order granting the petitioner’s request to relocate. There are however, limited exceptions, where the untimely filing of or absence of a response, can preclude this presumption. For example, if a response was untimely filed, but good cause for the denial of a relocation request otherwise exists, the court could deny a petition for relocation. Good cause might involve issues associated with improper service or notification to other interested parties, or the presence of other factual circumstances which would make the relocation inappropriate.

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In addition, if a parent or other person seeks to relocate, but the change in address will materially affect the current schedule of contact, access, and time-sharing with the nonrelocating parent or other person, a presumption in favor of or against a request to relocate will not arise. In reaching a determination regarding relocation, the court will evaluate the circumstances based on the criteria specified by statute. For more information on this topic, see, ‘Factors in Contested Relocation.’

In cases where the parties have already entered into an agreement for the relocation of the child, a parent or other interested party may still request an evidentiary hearing regarding the relocation if there is an existing cause of action, judgment, or decree of record pertaining to the child’s residence or a time-sharing schedule. In contrast to the 20-day statutory time limitations associated with a response to a petition, a written request for an evidentiary hearing associated with the ratification of an agreement, requires such request be made within 10 days following the filing of the relocation agreement with the court.

If you are a parent, or other person entitled access to or time-sharing with a child, the court’s approval of the child’s relocation can be highly distressing. Fortunately, even when a determination has been entered regarding the relocation of a child, there may still be remedies available to a parent or other interested person that can either prevent the relocation, or modify the terms of a relocation order. For this reason, it is important to have your matter reviewed by family law attorney experienced in relocation matters. However, keep in mind, that when dealing with relocation matters in particular, time is of the essence, and the sooner you take action by consulting with an attorney, the better your chances may be of obtaining a desired outcome.