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Do I Need a Judge’s Permission to Relocate with My Child?


There are very specific rules in Florida governing child custody disputes. This includes situations where one parent wants to relocate the child, i.e., the parent wants to move with the child to a different city for any reason. If the child is already the subject of a time-sharing order between the parents (or any non-parent with visitation rights), then it is necessary for all parties concerned to sign a written agreement authorizing the relocation.

In the absence of such an agreement, the parent seeking to relocate must file a petition with the appropriate Florida court explaining “the specific reasons for the proposed relocation,” such as the parent needing to move for work. The other parent or party then has the right to file a response before a judge decides the matter.

Court Rules Mother Can Retain Custody Despite Failing to Follow Relocation Rules

When custodial parents fail to follow these rules, it can lead to problems down the line. Here is a recent example taken from a decision by the Florida Third District Court of Appeals. This case involves a mother and father of a minor child who divorced in 2010. Under the terms of the divorce judgment, the parents had “shared parental responsibility” and agreed to a time-sharing plan allowing the father certain visitation rights.

Five years later, the mother moved with the child to Orlando. The father gave “oral consent” to the relocation. But the parents never signed a written agreement as required by law, nor did the mother file a formal relocation petition with the court.

Two years after the relocation, the child was visiting the father in Miami for the Thanksgiving holiday. The father said he observed his son “was malnourished” and failed to “maintain proper hygiene while in the Mother’s care.” Based on these observations, the father filed an emergency motion in court to take physical custody of the child. The mother then filed her own motion seeking an “emergency pick-up” order–essentially, a judicial order to the father to return the child to the mother.

The judge decided to allow the child to return to the mother pending resolution of the father’s petition to change custody. The judge emphasized that he did not “want to reward in any way the mother’s violation of law” regarding relocation. But the judge nevertheless felt returning the child to Orlando would be less disruptive to his life.

After the judge’s decision, the mother filed a formal relocation petition. Meanwhile, the father appealed the judge’s decision to return the child to the mother. The Second District rejected the appeal. The father essentially argued that returning the child to Orlando amounted to a “temporary relocation,” which was improper as the mother had not yet filed a relocation petition.

The appeals court noted, however, that the trial court was allowed to fashion “other appropriate remedial relief” when dealing with cases such as this one. Allowing the child to return to Orlando fell under this broad category. In other words, the law “does not mandate that a child must be returned to the non-violating parent when the other parent relocates without following” the rules governing such relocations.

Speak with a Boca Raton Child Custody Attorney Today

Although most parents believe they know what is best for their child, when it comes to legal custody, the courts play an integral and mandatory role that cannot be ignored. This is why it is important to work with a qualified Boca Raton child custody lawyer before attempting to establish or modify a custody arrangement. Contact the team at WiseLieberman, PLLC, if you need legal advice or assistance today.




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