What Happens to My Time-Sharing Plan If I Decide to Move Out of State?
When a Florida court renders a final judgment regarding a child custody matter, that does not mean the parents can never seek modification of their arrangements. But nor can a parent assume a judge will simply grant any request for modification. If a parent decides to move out of Florida, for example, the judge does not have to allow the children to go with that parent, even if it means reducing the amount of overall parenting time available.
Judge Denies Father’s Request to Relocate Children from Florida to Oregon
A recent decision from the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal, Hull v. Hull, illustrates the risks a parent assumes when he or she decides to relocate. This case involves a couple who divorced in 2014. The final judgment incorporated a mediated settlement agreement (MSA) between the parties, which included provisions for child custody and time sharing. Under the MSA, the couple’s children lived with the mother at her home in West Palm Coast.
In February 2017, the father filed a petition to modify the divorce judgment. He planned to move to Eugene, Oregon, in April of that year, and he wanted the children to live with him there. The father argued that allowing the relocation would “be in the best interest of the children” as he could provide them “with a stable household, safe community, increased household income, superior schooling, and a wholesome and more natural lifestyle” in Oregon.
A Volusia County judge held a three-day trial on the father’s petition in 2018, by which point he had already completed his own move to Oregon. The judge ultimately decided relocation was not in the children’s best interest and denied the father’s petition. The judge also declined to modify the preexisting time-sharing plan to accommodate the husband’s relocation, as he never filed a separate request to do so.
On appeal, the father argued the trial court had a duty to “make it geographically viable” for him to continue to see his kids, even absent such a specific request. The Fifth District disagreed. It noted that under current Florida law, a trial court is only required to modify time-sharing arrangements “if relocation is approved” in order to ensure the child has “frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with the nonrelocating parent.” In other words, if the trial judge had approved the father’s request, she would have been required to make sure the mother still had regular access to the children.
But the appeals court observed the same law “makes no provision for the trial court to modify time-sharing when the parent’s relocation is not approved because it was not in the children’s best interest, as happened here.” The father’s “inability to exercise his previously agreed upon time-sharing with his children is the result of the choice he made to relocate to Oregon.” He must now, in effect, live with the consequences.
Speak with a Boca Raton Child Custody & Family Law Attorney Today
Seeking modification of an existing parenting or time-sharing arrangement is a delicate legal process. It is not something you can carry out on a whim. A qualified Boca Raton modifications lawyer can advise you on the appropriate steps to follow. Call WiseLieberman, PLLC, at 561-488-7788 today to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our family law team.