During divorce proceedings, a parent may petition the court for a temporary relocation order that would allow the parent to move away with the child pending final resolution of the issue. Florida has a detailed statute that lays out the procedures to follow and standards the court must apply in this situation.
The law defines “relocation” as a move from the parent’s principal residence of at least 50 miles for at least 60 days in a row, excluding days away for vacation, school or the child’s medical care. On the flip side, a relocation under 50 miles or for under 60 days would normally not require a judge’s permission.
A mother or father who wants to relocate with a child while the divorce is pending, but not yet final, has two options.
Relocation based on parental agreement
First, if the other parent is in accord with the temporary relocation, the two parents can enter into a written agreement that includes the left-behind parent’s consent, a time-sharing schedule (visitation) and any necessary transportation arrangements to facilitate visits between the parent not moving away and the child. They must file the agreement with the court, after which the judge must ratify it if its provisions are in the child’s best interests.
In most circumstances, a court hearing on the agreement is not necessary for this scenario, but either party may request a hearing within 10 days from filing the agreement with the court, or the judge may hold one at their discretion.
Petition to relocate
Second, if the parents cannot agree on temporary relocation arrangements, either may file a petition for a temporary order to relocate. After a preliminary hearing, the judge may allow the proposed temporary relocation if the petition complies with all legal requirements and if it is likely that the court would approve this relocation arrangement at the conclusion of the divorce in the final judgment.
The judge can deny the request for temporary relocation in any of three circumstances:
- If the petition is out of compliance with legal requirements
- If a parent already moved away with the child without either a written agreement with the other parent or without court approval
- If the evidence from a preliminary hearing suggests a likelihood that the court would not grant the relocation request after the final hearing
If the court grants the petition for temporary relocation, it is in essence a temporary child custody order that applies during the pendency of the divorce proceedings. At the conclusion of the action, the court will issue a final custody order that deals with the relocation issue if the relocating parent requests that the arrangement be permanent and not temporary.
The statute requires that the judge deciding the final relocation request not give weight to the fact that the court had granted the temporary relocation request.