What is the Florida Relocation Statute and How Does it Work?

Many parents have come to our Firm with the question of whether or not they can relocate their minor child or children outside the State of Florida (or for more than fifty miles from where they currently reside, even if inside Florida) without having to ask for the other parent's permission (when they are of course separated) or without having to ask for Court permission to do so. This type of situation has become more prevalent, since because of the economic changes in the United States, many parents are finding better work opportunities and offers outside the original residence area of their minor child(ren) or outside the State of Florida.

The Florida Relocation Statute is the Florida law which provides guidance to parents in regarding the removal of children when they do not have a Court order or Judgment clearly addressing the relocation of a minor child and, in addition, provides serious sanctions to parents who already are under a Court's order or judgment establishing a time-sharing plan, parental plan, or custody but the parent relocates the minor child without first following certain legal steps or requirements.

The Florida Relocation Statute must be analyzed along with a series of laws under what is called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, as well as with a reading of any Court orders related to a minor child BEFORE a parent who is separated from the other proceeds to permanently move a minor child. It is our recommendation that any divorced and/or separated parent in the State of Florida, or with a Court order related to a minor child which has been entered in the State of Florida, seek appropriate legal counsel prior to moving a minor child from his/her permanent residence to avoid serious legal consequences.

Florida's Relocation Statute can be found under Title VI: Civil Practice and Procedure, Florida Statute's Chapter 61's "Dissolution of Marriage; Support; Time-Sharing". It is Statute 61.13001 and is entitled: "Parental relocation with a child". The internet link to it is: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0000-0099/0061/Sections/0061.13001.html

It is a complex statute. Many parents have come to our office with Court orders and/or agreements mentioning "statute 61.13001" without even understanding what it means. Florida's Relocation Statute applies to those cases when:

  1. There is an order entered by the Court BEFORE October 1st, 2009, if that order defines custody, primary residence, the parenting plan, time-sharing, or access to or with the child, BUT it does not expressly governs the relocation of the child, or
  2. There is an order entered by the Court, whether temporary or permanent, directed to a parenting plan, custody, primary residence, time-sharing, or access to a child, entered by the Court on or after October 1st, 2009, or
  3. There is the possibility of a relocation, or proposed relocation, whether permanent or temporary, of a child during any proceeding pending in Court as of October 1st, 2009, where the parenting plan, custody, primary residence, time-sharing, or access to the child, is an issue.

Florida's Relocation Statute has several definitions which are important. It defines what is " Relocation" as: "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.

Under the Florida's Relocation Statute, the parent who wants to move the minor child from his/her current residence may do so in two ways:

  1. The parents may agree to the relocation of the child. However, this agreement must be in writing and contain certain legal terms regarding same. It is our opinion that the agreement must be approved by a Court order prior to the relocation. OR
  2. If the parents are not able to agree to the relocation of the child, the interested parent must file with the appropriate Court a "Petition to Relocate". This is a legal process which we consider very complex. Florida law is very specific as to what the Petition to Relocate contains, how it must be delivered to the other parent, what language and content should it have, and many other legal requirements.

The Florida Relocation Statute is severe and clear as to the legal consequences for a parent not following it. It states:

Relocating the child without complying with the requirements of this subsection subjects the party in violation to contempt and other proceedings to compel the return of the child and may be taken into account by the court in any initial or postjudgment action seeking a determination or modification of the parenting plan or the access or time-sharing schedules as:

  1. A factor in making a determination regarding the relocation of a child.
  2. A factor in determining whether the parenting plan or the access or time-sharing schedule should be modified.
  3. A basis for ordering the temporary or permanent return of the child.
  4. Sufficient cause to order the parent or other person seeking to relocate the child to pay reasonable expenses and attorney's fees incurred by the party objecting to the relocation.
  5. Sufficient cause for the award of reasonable attorney's fees and costs, including interim travel expenses incident to access or time-sharing or securing the return of the child."

So, moving the child without following the Florida Relocation Statute's requirements could end up in the moving parent losing custody to that child.

Please notice that the Florida Relocation Statute mentions court orders entered after, or cases pending at or after, the date of October 1st, 2009. However, make no mistake that, although the Florida Relocation Statute does not strictly apply to the relocation of minor children under Court orders entered prior to October 1st, 2009, removing a child when a Court order speaks as to visitation and custody without first seeking a modification of the order through the Court system may trigger a petition for change of custody and/or a contempt action by the other parent.

Our Firm has had ample experience with cases involving the Florida Relocation Statute. We advise you not to proceed with a minor child's relocation without first having appropriate legal advise to avoid any adverse consequences. In addition, we are competent and able to provide legal representation to any parent prosecuting, or defending against, a minor child's relocation. Please feel free to contact our Firm to schedule a consultation regarding your child's relocation.