The Relocation Dilemma

couple in front of one-family house in modern residential area

By Evan Baron

As the cost of living in South Florida continues to increase, many individuals consider moving to an area which they can better afford. In addition, many of the residents of South Florida are originally from another location, which adds to their desire to move “back home” where they may have emotional and perhaps financial support. Relocating to another part of the country is stressful under most circumstances. If, however, the couple is divorced and there are minor children, the issue becomes much more stressful. The law in Florida allows a parent and the minor children to relocate a maximum of 50 miles from the address where they reside at the time of their divorce.

If you ask any Judge who is in the Family Law division, they will tell you that a “relocation” case is the most difficult to decide. For example, let’s say that mom wants to move back to Massachusetts with the parties two minor children. They are either in the midst of a divorce or the divorce has already been finalized. Dad is choosing to stay in South Florida and has no desire or intention to move back north. Can mom move? Can dad stop her? The answer to each of these questions is “perhaps.”

If both parents are involved in the children’s lives, a move of 50 miles can drastically change a time sharing schedule. A relocation of even 10 miles can affect a child’s school district. A change of 50 miles will require, more often than not, a modification of the time sharing schedule. Midweek dinners or morning drives to school with the parent remaining in the area will become impossible.

If a move of just a few miles can alter a time sharing plan, imagine how a relocation of hundreds of miles will affect the status quo. The law does, however, allow for a relocation under certain circumstances. The court must weigh the benefit to the minor children, against the effect it will have on the parent/child relationship. It’s true that the relocating parent may experience better financial circumstances if allowed to move, but how will the parent/child relationship suffer as a result? There are generally no easy answers. The question for a Judge is not how it might benefit a parent, but rather how will the move benefit a child and is it in the child’s best interests to relocate?

The most important thing to remember is that a parent cannot relocate with a minor child beyond 50 miles without court order or agreement of the other parent. In reality, even a 50 mile change will usually require a modification to be filed, as long as it affects the current time sharing schedule. The parent seeking to relocate must file a petition and fully inform the other parent of his/her intentions, including the address of new residence, purpose in moving and a proposed long distance time sharing schedule.

If you are faced with a possible relocation issue, I suggest you contact an attorney who is experienced in this matter.

The law firm of Evan H. Baron and Associates is located at 1655 North Commerce Parkway, Suite 201, in Weston. If you have any questions concerning this issue or any other family law matter, call the office at 954-385-9160.