Relocation and Child Custody – How This Affects You

Moving to a new town might be exciting, but can quickly turn into a nightmare if you have timesharing, which is the new term for child custody or visitation. Issues involving the rights of the child, the dynamics of other parent, and the interpretation of the law, can make this life decision more difficult. If you are planning to make a move with or without your child, there are important things to consider in the context of your timesharing case. Even if you are not the parent who is relocating but has a child who is moving with the other parent, you still need to know how their move affects you.

The first thing to do is to make sure the move of either party, is legally qualified to be defined as a relocation. Every state has their own statutes regarding the definition, procedure, and consequences of a short or long distance move by a parent of the child. In Florida, the proper phrase is called a ‘legal child relocation’ and is defined by these conditions:

1. Not temporary, such as taking trips, attending educational events, or going on vacations

2. Duration time of 60 days or more

3. Distance of 50 miles or more from prior location of residence

4. After a court order specifying the plan for timesharing

If either party’s move qualifies as a ‘legal child relocation’, then there are a few ways to handle this situation. The ideal way would be to have both parents discuss the move before it takes place and come to an agreement outside of the courtroom. To validate this, they can sign a written statement testifying to the agreement, as well as other details concerning the child. Those things might include which courts to settle future disputes, how the other parent will handle holidays and summer seasons, and the changes in child support costs.

If the two parties can agree on the ‘legal child relocation’ outside the courts or by petition, then the move will go smoothly and relationship between the child and moving parent will be cordial. Since this can be a complex issue, relocations are approached with caution and as a last measure while the child is in timesharing with both of his or her parents.

Another option, most parents in timesharing take, is to notify the courts of the future move. This is usually done by a petition to relocate. The other parent will have a total of 20 days to object to the move after being served with the petition. If that party disagrees, he or she can file a case to contest the relocation. The objection must contain a good reason against the move and outline the foreseeable problems if they moved.

When a parent decides to relocate the child without notifying the other parent and/or the courts, that parent could face a change in timesharing terms as well as criminal charges of kidnapping.

In each case, the courts highest concern is for the welfare of the child and whether the move would prevent the other parent from his or her timeshare with the child due to finances, work obligations, and transportation issues. The relocation will not be granted if the move is detrimental to the relationship between the child and the other parent, is not in the best interest of the child – like schooling, medical access, and environment, and/or the career opportunities of either parent will be impaired. Relocations can be granted however, if a number of contested items are addressed, such as

1. Date of proposed relocation

2. Address of relocation

3. Reason for relocation

4. Revised parenting schedule

5. Reduction in child support to cover travel expenses for timesharing

If you are the parent with the petition to move, be prepared to give ample time for the other parent to plan too. Be prepared to produce supporting evidence for your proposed move, to reconsider everything in light of your child and to respect his or her relationship to the other parent. Unfortunately, when you have a child in timeshare, relocations are not just about you and your decision.

It is also possible to do this without the intervention of the courts and be guided by a trusted legal counsel. In the end, the child’s best interests will be the main determining factor in the order.