How a Long-Distance Relocation Can Impact–and Require Modification of–Your Florida Parenting Plan

Today, the realities of professional growth and development mean that a parent may find him/herself moving, perhaps even moving several times, across long distances in order to advance a career and provide for his/her family. That, unfortunately, can be especially complicated if the parent is divorced and has minor children from the marriage. The parent must ask the court for permission to make the move and, if the court does accept the relocation, the court may also find it necessary to make additional rulings as other aspects (like timesharing) are inherently intertwined with the issue of relocation. If you or your spouse has proposed relocating, make certain you have a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney working for you.

The case of E.S. and S.S. was one that demonstrated just how interconnected these issues were. E.S. was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, stationed in California. During the course of the divorce litigation, the wife, S.S., and the couple’s child moved from South Florida to Maryland. The trial judge set up a schedule in which the father would receive 12 visits each year–10 in Maryland and 2 in California.

However, life events intervened. The mother desired to move to North Carolina, and went back to court seeking permission to relocate with the child. The mother suggested that the court accept the move and modify timesharing to give the father 2 visits in California and 10 in North Carolina. The father opposed that, pointing out that, while there was a Coast Guard base near the child’s Maryland home, the nearest base to the proposed North Carolina destination was three hours away.

Ultimately, the trial judge decided to approve the relocation, but made that approval conditioned upon the father’s receiving all 12 of his visits with the child in California.

The mother appealed but the father was able to oppose it successfully. In many situations, the law forbids judges from entering orders on issues if the parties had not specifically asked for modification on those issues. In this case, neither parent asked for modification of timesharing. However, this appeals court’s opinion made it clear that sometimes certain issues can be so closely interwoven that the court is allowed to act without violating either parent’s Due Process rights, even if neither parent had asked for that modification.

Long-distance relocation and timesharing are two such interwoven issues. As the court stated, a “relocation of a significant distance, such as this one, necessarily involves revisiting timesharing issues for the parent not seeking the move.” Whenever a court grants a majority timesharing parent’s request to relocate the child, that action necessarily triggers the court’s authority to adjust timesharing in order to “ensure the child has “frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact with the nonrelocating parent.’” That makes sense in most scenarios, including this one. It would almost certainly be excessively and unnecessarily difficult for this father to engage in meaningful contact with the child if, despite his living on the west coast and the child living in North Carolina, he was forced to have 10 of his 12 visits with the child elsewhere.

Whether yours is a property issue, a child-related issue or an issue related to alimony, the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have the experience to help you. Our attorneys have been providing divorcing spouses and parents with the useful representation they need to get helpful results. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Winning a Child Relocation Battle in Florida After the Primary Earner in Your Family Gets a Job Transfer, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 14, 2018

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