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When is Approval Required to Relocate


Family in need of attorney

Relocating with a child can often present legal concerns, both for the relocating parent, as well as for the nonrelocating parent. These concerns are valid, particularly if a custody dispute is pending, or a valid court order is already in place. In many cases, relocating with a child requires the parent to petition the court and obtain approval, prior to the relocation. The parents may also agree on the relocation. When prior approval is required, there are several legal procedures that must be complied with in order to obtain the legal entitlement to relocate and/or otherwise avoid legal consequences associated with an improper relocation.

In order to determine which circumstance will require approval for a parent to relocate with a child, it is necessary to understand the manner in which Florida law defines the term ‘relocation.’ Pursuant to Fla. Stat. §61.13001(1)(e):

“Relocation” means a change in the location of the principal residence of a parent or other person from his or her principal place of residence at the time of the last order establishing or modifying time-sharing, or at the time of filing the pending action to establish or modify time-sharing. The change of location must be at least 50 miles from that residence, and for at least 60 consecutive days not including a temporary absence from the principal residence for purposes of vacation, education, or the provision of health care for the child.

For those unfamiliar with complicated legal language, interpreting the precise meaning of the statutory definition of relocation may be a difficult process. However, understanding the process of relocation, for purposes of assessing the need for prior approval, can be simplified by first considering THREE primary factors: (1) distance of change in address; and (2) length of time of change in address; and (3) purpose of change in address. In many cases, it is also necessary to consider presence of prior, pending, or existing orders related to the child’s residence as a fourth factor. Also, note that ‘change in address’ refers to change in principal place of residence or address, as stated within the most recent time-sharing order, or provided at the time of filing a pending time-sharing action.

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To gain further understanding, it is helpful to distinguish between the legal definition of relocation, as opposed to the common and ordinary meaning of the word. Consider the scenario where a parent, entitled to do so, moves less than 50 miles away with a child. In terms of the common meaning of the word, this may appear to be a relocation, however, from a legal perspective, this is generally just a permissible change in location. Perhaps, then, it may be easier to view relocation matters by delineating between the following three scenarios:

(1) statutorily defined relocation;
(2) permissible change of location; and
(3) temporary absence

A statutorily defined relocation generally requires either court approval or agreement, and consists of three primary components: (1) change of principal address of a distance greater than 50 miles; and (3) for a length of time of least 60 consecutive days, excluding a (3) purpose of temporary absence. In calculating this threshold distance requirement, for statutory purposes, it is only necessary to consider the distance between the former primary residence and the residence of relocation. However, because the relocation may create a hardship for the nonrelocating parent’s or other persons access to or time-sharing with a child, it is highly beneficial to also take into consideration the principal place of residence of both parents, as compared to the distance of the change in location. By considering potential hardships ahead of time, the parties may be able to prevent having to deal with subsequent requests to modify or alter the terms of an order or agreement at a later time. The second and third component of a statutorily defined, length of time and purpose, are discussed in further detail below.

A permissible change of location, as opposed to a relocation defined by Florida Statute, generally does not require parental agreement or court approval, when a parent and child wish change their principal place of residence, so long as the change meets certain requirements. As a general rule, a change of location is permissible if the change in principal address is 50 miles or less from the primary residence of the nonrelocating parent. In some cases, a change in location of a distance greater than 50 miles is permitted, if the change is for a period less than 60 days, or is for one of the purposes defined by statute as a temporary absence.

A temporary absence is similar to a permissible change of location, in the sense that a parent is generally not required to obtain prior court approval or parental agreement. Pursuant to statute, a temporary absence includes a change of the principal residence for purposes of vacation, education, or the provision of health care for the child. A temporary absence is an exception to the statutory definition of relocation. Therefore, some temporary absences may involve a change in location greater than 50 miles, or for a period longer than 60 days, although from the legal perspective, such change is not considered a relocation.

In addition, factors such as the date of entry of an existing custody order or provisions included within that order, as well as prior improper relocation, will also play a role in assessing relocation matters. Because most situations are unique, it is important to seek consultation with a licensed legal professional, when relocation concerns arise. In some cases, a parent that is relocating with a child, wants to ensure that they are fully compliant with any legal requirements associated with relocation.

In other cases, a nonrelocating parent has concerns about a relocation of the other parent that has already occurred, whether present or prior, or a relocation that might occur in the near future. In both cases, our Gainesville Family Law Attorneys have the experience necessary to handle your relocation matter, and will discuss your legal rights, thereby providing you and your family with much needed peace of mind.