Before you sign any agreement regarding your rights in a child custody and timesharing situation, it is important to understand fully exactly what you are agreeing to do. If the terms of an agreement include provisions that clearly encompass a move out of state, you may very possibly not be able to contest that out-of-state move later. In other words, always know before you sign. An experienced Florida child custody attorney can advise you on your rights and the relative benefits and disadvantages of any potential agreement.
The dispute between Emmanuel and Laurie was one that involved a cross-country move. The couple was married in 2011 and separated in 2015, and the wife filed for divorce in 2017. The pair had one child together. While the divorce case was still ongoing in the Florida court system, the mother, without a court order or any notice to the father, decided to move, relocating the child and herself from Florida to Michigan.
The father went to court to protest this unilateral decision regarding the child’s living arrangements. Eventually, the parents reached a mutual agreement, agreeing to leave the child in the mother’s custody pending the outcome of a mediation. They also agreed for the father to have one month of visitation during the summer, as well as a period of visitation during winter break. The agreement made it clear that, if the two parents could not reach a permanent agreement during the mediation, the father retained his rights to argue in court about the custody and timesharing issues.
In the following summer, the mother didn’t comply with the visitation schedule, and the court awarded the father 30 days of makeup visitation. Near the end of that month, the father filed an emergency request seeking to prevent the return of the child to Michigan. The father’s argument was that the mother had failed to file the required paperwork (and obtain court approval) for moving the child out of Florida.
The courts, however, ruled against the father. There are two ways you can properly relocate with a child out of state. One is by obtaining a court order. The other is by mutual agreement of the parents. The husband argued that there was no order, and there was no mutual agreement for relocation. The agreement he completed with the mother was simply one setting up a timesharing schedule, rather than one assenting to moving the child to Michigan, he argued.
If the husband actually desired not to have the child go to Michigan, he should not have accepted this agreement. The court found that the terms of the agreement demonstrated a clear intent for the child to follow the mother to Michigan. The agreement stated that the child would remain in the custody of the mother, who resided in Michigan. It also acknowledged that the child might possibly attend school in Michigan. It further stated that, in order to exercise his timesharing, the father was obliged to pick up the child in, and return him to, Michigan. Those terms were enough to show that a reasonable person would understand that the child’s moving to Michigan was part of the agreement.
To make sure that you are doing everything possible to protect yourself and your family in any custody and timesharing case, reach out to the experienced South Florida child relocation attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys have been helping our clients and their families with the full range of family law cases for many years. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Florida Father’s Promises of Future Improvement Were not Enough to Block Mother’s Requested Relocation, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, June 28, 2017
Florida Appeals Court Blocks Mother and Child’s Relocation to Nebraska, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Sept. 9, 2015