Florida Father’s Promises of Future Improvement Were not Enough to Block Mother’s Requested Relocation

In any family law case, it is important to know what proof you will need in order to succeed before you arrive in court. For example, in cases in which one spouse wants to relocate with the children, the law places certain proof obligations on each parent. In a recent case involving a Palm Beach County family, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a trial judge’s decision to deny the mother’s request to relocate. The mother had adequate proof that the move was in the best interests of the children, while the father had, on his side, only promises to change his ways and be a better parent in the future. Promises of future changes were not sufficient, the appeals court stated in its ruling.

The parents, Robert and Melanie, had lived in Virginia for 15 years before relocating to South Florida in 2012. Two years later, the wife filed for divorce. As part of that legal action, the wife asked for court permission to relocate, along with the couple’s two elementary school-aged children, back to Virginia. This move would benefit the children, she argued, since it would eliminate her need to travel for work, which was extensive as long as she lived in Florida.

As part of her case, the wife alleged that the husband was a compulsive gambler and that this gambling addiction played a large role in the divorce filing and relocation request. When a parent makes a request for court approval of a relocation, the requesting parent must prove to the judge that the move would be in the best interests of the children. If the requesting parent does this, the other parent has the legal burden of providing proof that overcomes the requesting parent’s evidence.

Melanie had extensive evidence of the husband’s compulsive gambling and mental health problems. The trial judge concluded that this proof was enough to support her relocation request. Robert, on his side, had his testimony in which he promised to “give up his gambling behavior and work harder on his mental health issues.” This, the trial judge decided, was enough to rebut the mother’s showing, so the court denied the relocation request.

The wife appealed and won. The law requires a parent who opposes relocation, after a requesting parent has made a sufficient evidentiary showing, to prove by a preponderance of evidence that relocation actually isn’t in the best interest of the children. In this case, all the father had on his side were things that had not yet happened. The husband promised to change his ways and to do better in the future. This was not proof under Florida law. The Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling in 2010 that made it clear that, in determining whether or not a relocation of children is proper, a court must use a “present-based analysis” because predicting future changes in the relevant statutory factors is impossible. A trial judge is “not equipped with a ‘crystal ball’ that enables it to prophetically determine whether future relocation is in the best interests of a child,” the court wrote.

Whether you are seeking a relocation or opposing one, you need skilled counsel on your side. The diligent and determined South Florida child relocation attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have the knowledge and the ability you need on your side to represent your interests. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Florida Appeals Court Blocks Mother and Child’s Relocation to Nebraska, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Sept. 9, 2015

Court Refuses to Approve Mother’s Move to Indiana After Failure to Prove Relocation Was in Daughter’s Best Interests, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 27, 2013