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Court Refuses to Approve Mother’s Move to Indiana After Failure to Prove Relocation Was in Daughter’s Best Interests

silhouettes-of-children.jpgA recent court of appeals decision put a screeching halt to a mother’s attempt to relocate her daughter from central Florida to Indiana. The 5th District Court of Appeal’s ruling affirmed a lower court’s decision that the move was not in the daughter’s best interests, concluding that the mother was motivated by a desire to maintain physical distance between the daughter and the father, and to block contact between the two.

This couple divorced in 2008 in California, and the court approved a marital settlement agreement that included a 50-50 time-sharing arrangement for the couple’s one daughter. The mother and the daughter soon moved to central Florida. In an effort to be closer to his daughter, the father moved to Orlando in the summer of 2010.

Just three months later, the mother abruptly relocated her family, including the daughter, to Indiana, where the mother’s husband had received a job offer. The father asked the court to order the return of his daughter. After a failed telephonic mediation, the mother petitioned the court to approve the relocation to Indiana.

The trial court denied the mother’s request, concluding that the move was not in the best interests of the daughter, as required by Section 61.13001(7) of the Florida Statutes. On appeal, the mother argued that the trial court was incorrect in requiring her to show the move was in the daughter’s best interests, as opposed to requiring the father to prove the existence of a “substantial change in circumstances” since the original ruling on time-sharing.

The court of appeals disagreed with the mother’s argument. The father was not required to show a substantial change in circumstances as set out in Section 61.13, as that statute only applied to actions seeking modification of a time-sharing agreement. Because the husband was only acting to enforce the existing time-sharing agreement, not to request a change, he was not obligated to establish that a change had occurred.

Additionally, the court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling casting suspicion upon the motives and intentions of the mother. The trial court’s ruling had concluded that the mother had sought to interfere with the relationship between her daughter the father and that the mother, if allowed to move the daughter to Indiana, likely would disobey future court orders and block future contact between the daughter and the father.

This outcome provides a clear reminder of the importance of avoiding even the appearance of selfish motives in custody matters. While the mother’s husband’s new job in Indiana may have offered the mother a genuine opportunity to provide for her daughter, her behavior in dealing with the girl’s father raised the clear impression, in the opinion of the courts, that the mother’s actual motives were not to provide for the girl’s interests, but to keep several states’ distance between the father and his daughter.

Cases like this highlight the difficult and fractious relationships that can exist between former spouses who share children from their marriages. In an ideal world, parents would always work collaboratively in the best interests of their children, but too often that is not the reality. When you need legal assistance to protect your relationship with your children, call the South Florida family law attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. We have helped many parents throughout the Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade area and can advocate for you as you seek ensure that you are an active and vital part of your children’s lives. Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Biological Father Lacks Legal Relationship, Standing to Seek Custody, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Sept. 24, 2013
Father Denied Paternity Rights in Florida Courts, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 21, 2013