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Relocation by Agreement


Family in need of attorney

In Florida, a statutory relocation is defined as a change in principal residence of a distance greater than 50 miles, and for a period of at least 60 days. Excluded from the statutory definition of relocation is a temporary absence, for the purpose of vacation, education, or a provision of health care for the child. When a parent wishes to move from their principal residence, such that the distance and time period of the change in address would be legally defined as a relocation, and IF the nonrelocating parent, as well as any other person entitled to access to or time-sharing with the child, agree to the relocation of the child, the parties may enter into a written agreement.

Florida statutes provides the manner in which parties may attain relocation by agreement. As an initial consideration, it is important to remember that consent for the relocation must be obtained from all interested parties. Interested parties include not only the child’s parents, but also any other person legally entitled access to or time-sharing with the child. For purposes of parental relocation with a child, “other person” is defined as “an individual who is not the parent, but with whom the child resides pursuant to court order, or who has the right of access to, time-sharing with, or visitation with the child.” For example, if both parents are entitled to access to a child, and a grandparent also has visitation rights with that child, the agreement for relocation must include the grandparent’s consent, as well as the consent of both parents.

In addition to consent by both parents and other interested persons, the relocation agreement must include provisions to address the manner in which access to the child or time-sharing will be carried out upon the child’s relocation. Pursuant to Florida Statute § 61.13001(2)(a)(2), this requirement can be satisfied if the written agreement “[d]efines an access or time-sharing schedule for the nonrelocating parent and any other persons who are entitled to access or time-sharing.” In addition, Florida Statute § 61.13001(2)(a)(3) provides that “if necessary,” the agreement should also describe “any transportation arrangements related to access or time-sharing.”

In cases where there is an existing cause of action, judgment, or decree of record pertaining to the child’s residence, the parties must seek ratification of the relocation agreement by court order. In some cases, an evidentiary hearing will not be required to ratify the agreement. However, if one or more of the parties to the agreement, makes a proper request for hearing, an evidentiary hearing will be held. A proper request for an evidentiary hearing requires that such request be submitted in writing, and within 10 days after the date the agreement is filed with the court. If no hearing request is made, or if a hearing is not timely requested, a presumption that the relocation is in the best interest of the child may arise, and the agreement may be ratified without the necessity of an evidentiary hearing.

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Because there are several consequences that can occur when a parent wrongfully relocates with a child, it is important to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to protect your legal rights. Consider the scenario where a parent, or other interested person, verbally agrees to the relocation of the child, but the parties fail to satisfy the statutory requirement of signing a written agreement for relocation of the child, or otherwise obtaining court approval. If, upon the relocation with the child, a parent or other person entitled access or time sharing with the child, later decides they no longer agree to the relocation, the absence of a prior written agreement or court approval could potentially result in significant legal consequences due to the improper relocation.

Consider an alternate scenario, where an agreement to relocate was reduced to writing, but the parties did not obtain the consent of all interested persons, or otherwise failed to meet the requirements set forth under Florida Law. (See, ‘Distinguishing Between Formal and Informal Request to Relocate‘).This scenario, too, can have harmful legal ramifications for the relocating parent, in the event an interested person later objects to the relocation. Although many family law forms are available from a variety of online sources, it is important to ensure full compliance with any and all legal requirements.

In some cases, all that may be necessary is an attorney providing representation in a limited capacity, such as for purposes of reviewing a proposed agreement to relocate, in conjunction with the factual circumstances of an intended relocation, to ensure statutory compliance and adequate protection of your legal rights. However, many relocation matters, particular those which are contested, may involve more complex processes, and in such cases, having an attorney who will handle your relocation matter from beginning to end can often have a profound impact on the ultimate outcome.