Parental Relocation

Divorce can trigger the desire for relocation and a fresh start, but divorcees with children must consider several factors before packing their bags. Jeff Weissman is a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, attorney specializing in marital and family law, and clients often seek his counsel because they themselves want to move or because their former spouses have expressed the desire to relocate. Many people do not know where the law stands on parental relocation, and with good reason: The issue is far from black and white.

For example, Florida’s appellate courts initially agreed that a custodial parent was free to move with the children unless there was a residence restriction in the union’s dissolution judgment. A divide emerged when some courts made relocating difficult if the resulting move would violate visitation rights. Many courts found this reason enough to rule against a move, while others felt that issues such as the potential improvement to a child’s quality of life should be considered.

To address these issues, the Florida Supreme Court adopted a new approach in the 1990s that used six criteria to reach a judgment in cases where custodial parents wanted to leave the state. Courts had to consider whether

1. the move was motivated to defeat visitation;
2. the move would improve the general quality of life for both the custodial parent and children;
3. the move was in the child’s best interest;
4. the move was fiscally feasible;
5. the custodial parent would comply with substitute visitation arrangements; and
6. substitute visitation would be sufficient to allow the continued cultivation of a meaningful relationship between the children and the noncustodial parent.

Courts tended to approve such moves, rationalizing that by improving the quality of life for the custodial parent, the child’s life would also benefit. It has become increasingly apparent, however, that substituting visitation schedules detrimentally affects relationships between children and noncustodial parents. Noncustodial parents also had to contend with custodial parents moving without court consent, thus forcing them to try to reverse the move after the fact.

In 2006, a relocation statute co-authored by Mr. Weissman adopted many of the factors mandated earlier by the Supreme Court and added several other factors and criteria for judicial consideration. Through the years, this statute has been further modified and updated to include certain procedural requirements applicable to the moving party and the objecting party. Mr. Weissman has overseen and participated in the discussions regarding the relocation statute and is currently seeking to enact legislation that will clarify and improve upon the legal definition of “relocation.”

Custody arrangements can be difficult to navigate without the support of a knowledgeable attorney like Jeff Weissman. Contact the offices of Gladstone & Weissman, P.A., to learn more about its services.