For many, getting a divorce can mark the beginning of a fresh start in life and an opportunity to move away from a lifestyle that no longer works. However, when there are minor children involved, there are also limits on actions that could affect the children’s relationship with both parents.

One potentially complicated issue can arise when a custodial parent considers moving away. Relocating far away not only upsets the custody and visitation schedule already in place, but also fundamentally affects the child’s interests.

The basic law

According to Florida law, a custodial parent wishing to relocate to a distance greater than 50 miles for a time of more than 60 days must give proper notice to the other parent. He or she must also obtain either the other parent’s consent or the court’s approval set forth in an official order. Failing to follow these rules can negatively affect a parent’s custody and visitation rights and may also result in charges of contempt of court, as well as other legal complications.

Consent from the other parent

If the non-custodial parent agrees to the move, the two parents can then file their agreement with the court. This document should set forth the details of how the parents want to handle the move in terms of custody, including a new proposed visitation schedule and an explanation of how transportation will work. Courts tend to approve mutually agreed-on arrangements, but approval is still not automatic. Courts may require some changes to the proposed arrangements if they deem it in the best interests of the child.

Unilateral petition

If the non-custodial parent refuses to consent to the move, the parent who wants to move will need to petition the court. The non-custodial parent must receive proper notice of the petition and a chance to file objections in response. The petition must also include detailed information about the proposed move and outline how the parent intends to have custody and visitation work afterward.

Important factors

When deciding whether to allow a parent to move, courts consider the best interests of the children. This typically means examining the child’s existing relationships and how the move will affect her or him. The parent’s reasons for moving also have relevance; for example, a move necessary for a parent to have a job may be in the child’s best interests because it will enable the parent to continue supporting him or her.