No Blank Checks On Parent Request to Relocate with Child

In January 2017, The First District Appeals Court ruled that courts are not allowed to pre-judge what is in the “child’s best interest” when a parent requests permission to relocate with a child at some unspecfied future date, especially when it is uncertain whether and when such a relocation will occur.

Kathleen and Mark Horn had filed for divorce. As part of their divorce final judgment, the trial court allowed Mark allowed to relocate with their child, if needed, from San Antonio, Texas, to any other location in the continental United States, including to the paternal grandmother’s home in Virginia. The trial court said Mark could do so without approval of his former wife or from the trial court. Kathleen raised this and other issues on appeal.

Ultimately, the District Court of Appeal found that Florida state law doesn’t permit this type of relocation. The court noted that the Florida Supreme Court previously ruled in Arthur v. Arthur (2010), that the best interests determination in petitions for relocation must be made at the final hearing and must be supported by competent, substantial evidence.

The court in this case decided that because the relocation provision in the final judgment would have allowed the child’s Father to relocate without satisfying the requirements of Florida Statute § 61.13001, and since the trial court found that relocation was in the child’s best interest without current, competent, substantial evidence to support it, the decision was in error.

Florida law provides that if the parents and those entitled to access or time-sharing with the child agree to the relocation of the child, they’re able to satisfy the requirements of the law by signing a written agreement that:

1. Reflects consent to the relocation;

2. Defines an access or time-sharing schedule for the nonrelocating parent and any other persons who are entitled to access or time-sharing; and

3. Describes, if necessary, any transportation arrangements related to access or time-sharing.

But when the other parent doesn’t consent or agree to the relocation, like the child’s Mother in this case, the parent seeking relocation must file a petition to relocate with the court and serve it on the other parent. Because the trial judge erred in this part of the divorce decree, this part of the case was reversed and vacated. Horn v. Horn, __ So. 3d __, 2017 Fla. App. LEXIS 364 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. Jan. 17, 2017).

If you are a parent who’s seeking to move more than 50 miles away or a parent that is served with a petition for relocation from your ex, contact Michael DeVoe, an experienced family law attorney with offices in Kissimmee and Orlando. Michael can answer your questions about the potential relocation of your child, as well as any other family law concerns, such as child support modification, custody, and injunctions. Contact Michael DeVoe today for a free consultation at (407) 284-1620 or use the easy-to-use email form on our website.