Florida Appeals Court Blocks Mother and Child’s Relocation to Nebraska

A recent 4th District Court of Appeal ruling withdrew the green light a mother previously received to take her child from Broward County and return to Nebraska. Even though the father did not challenge the relocation within the required 20 days, the law still allows courts to refrain from approving relocations if good cause exists.

The case focused on the dispute between A.V. (father) and M.H. (mother), who had a child together in 2008. In 2010, while the child lived with the mother in Nebraska, a court in that state created a parenting plan that gave the mother residential custody, with timesharing to the father, who lived in South Florida. Three years later, the mother and child moved to Florida to be near the father. The child was enrolled in Broward County Schools. Earlier this year, however, the mother sought court permission to return, along with the child, to Nebraska. The father’s lawyer filed a document opposing the move to Nebraska but did so after the 20-day period for responding to the mother’s request had passed.

By late April, the mother and child were back in Nebraska, with the mother having picked the child up from his school in Broward County and immediately left the state. The father asked the court to order the mother to return, along with the child, to Florida. The court rejected the father’s request. In that ruling, the court stated that, since the father did not contest the mother’s request within the required 20-day period, the court presumed that “relocation is … in the best interest of the minor child.”

The father appealed and won. Under Florida statutory law, a parent must file a petition in court to relocate a child out of state unless that parent and the other parent already have an agreement that covers relocation. If a parent files the required relocation request, the other parent has 20 days to respond and contest the relocation. Under the law, judges are instructed to presume that a relocation is in the child’s best interest if the other parent fails to contest it, “absent good cause” to rule otherwise.

In this case, good cause was present, so the trial court should not have approved the relocation to Nebraska. The father filed an opposition 28 days after the mother’s request and, in it, alleged that the mother violated the original custody order by leaving Florida with the child, that the mother took the child to the home of her former husband (whom the child had allegedly seen abuse the mother), and that the child displayed emotional problems upon returning to Florida. The appeals court also pointed out that the law disfavors default judgments (like the one approving this relocation to Nebraska) that do not contemplate the child’s best interest, especially in a case like this, where the delay was the result of the father’s lawyer’s unavailability, not procrastination or inaction by the father.

For answers to your questions about child custody, timesharing, and relocation issues, contact the South Florida child custody attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our experienced attorneys have years of experience helping clients like you protect your family.

Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule a confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

What You Need to Obtain an Emergency Ex Parte Child Custody Order in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 15, 2015
Father’s Failure to Return Daughter to Florida on Time Allows for Alteration of Parenting Plan, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 18, 2015