Parental Relocation with Child: Factors Courts Consider

Parental Relocation

Parental Relocation with Child: Factors Courts Consider

Separation and divorce can completely uproot a child’s life; changing their schedule, home and sometimes even their relationship with their parents. While a child custody agreement seeks to identify the best arrangement for the child, sometimes life happens and parents are forced to relocate and make changes to an original arrangement. The most difficult question that a Florida family court judge needs to consider when making a decision as to whether to allow the co-parent to move with the child is – when is relocating with children in their best interest? More specifically, how do those factors apply to the situation in front of the family court? In making this decision regarding parental relocation of a co-parent, the court takes many different factors into consideration.

The Child’s Best Interests

The first element taken into consideration by the court is the best interests of the child. All proceedings within a child custody evaluation and any subsequent modifications are all evaluated on the basis of their impact on the child’s best interests. The parent who is wishing to relocate with the child takes the responsibility of proving and providing evidence to support that the relocation is in the best interests of the child. The non-relocating parent then has to provide evidence to the contrary, that the relocation is not in the best interests of the child. The court will make a determination as to what the arrangement will be based on this evidence.

The Parent-Child Relationship

The court will take considerable interest in the child’s relationship with both parents. The quality of the child’s relationship both with the parent looking to relocate and the non-relocating parent will come into play. The court will be looking to identify the relational impact such a move, a separation from a parent, will play in the child’s life. They may also look at the child’s relationships with family in their current location; brothers, sisters, half-siblings, grandparents and other significant relationships may be very important in the child’s life. Separating a child from these relationships, in addition to the other parent may negatively impact the child’s life and development.

The Child’s Age

The age and developmental stage of the child play an important role in the court’s evaluation of a relocation. Children have specific developmental milestones to meet by age group. By each age and the developmental stage, they should be learning different things, growing physically as well as developing strong, lasting relationships.  If a relocation will inhibit the child’s ability to develop normally physically, educationally, and emotionally, the court may deem the relocation inappropriate. Some children that have special needs will require particular attention from the court as far as identifying the potential impact a move may have on them.

Preservation of the Relationship

Co-parenting and the involvement of both parents in a child’s life has been proven by research to be the most effective, and beneficial arrangement for the child. One of the important elements to consider in a case of relocation is the possibility of preserving the relationship between the child and non-relocating parent. Depending on the distance of the move, frequent travel and visitation may not be an option for parents. The court will take a look at the financial circumstances of both parents to determine the visitation possibilities and the possible outcomes and compliance with a long distance arrangement. As such, the court may take other arrangements into consideration. For example, time sharing is one arrangement that may be an option. One parent keeps the child throughout the school year while the other parent has the child throughout the summer. It is important that the court identifies a feasible arrangement because if compliance becomes an issue after a relocation takes place, the issue will be out of the jurisdiction of the court.

What the Child Wants

A large component of identifying the best arrangement for the child is taking into consideration what the child wants. If a child is dead set on not being separated from one of the parents, the relocation could be detrimental to his/her development. The court may spend considerable time interviewing the child to determine the child’s willingness to participate in the relocation and how the relocation will impact his/her development.

The Child’s Quality of Life

The court may evaluate the ability of the relocation to enhance the child’s quality of life. A relocation to enhance a child’s life whether financially, educationally or emotionally is viewed far more favorably in the eyes of the court. A relocation solely for the purpose of enhancing the quality of the life of the relocating parent, without regard to the child, may require a more in-depth look by the court.

Employment and Economic Circumstances

Very frequently, relocations have to do with a career change or promotion that offers the possibility of an improved financial situation. The employment and economic circumstances of both parents are important factors in evaluating the possibility of parental relocation of a co-parent with the child. If the parent looking to relocate is unable to find appropriate income in the current location, a relocation may be necessary to improve the parent’s economic circumstances, as well as the quality of life of the child. The court may look at the situation and determine if the relocation is necessary to improve the economic situation. The court may also evaluate the economic situation of the non-relocating parent as well.

History of Abuse

Any court proceeding evaluating child custody will always look at the criminal background of both parents. Parents with violent backgrounds including a history of domestic violence or substance abuse will be evaluated in depth by the court prior to any determination on relocations.

Other Reasons for Parental Relocation

The court will evaluate all reasons given for the relocation as well as the non-relocating parent’s reasons for opposing the relocation. As mentioned above, relocations made in an attempt to improve the child’s quality of life are viewed far more favorably. The reason for the relocation is a huge factor that the court takes into consideration. The court will want to ensure that the relocation is sought in good faith and that the individual seeking relocation is not doing so to escape from fulfilling financial obligations, debt obligations or marital property obligations. The relocating parent will need to provide the court with the specific reasons for the relocation as well as proof and evidence that the move is in the child’s best interests. The court will evaluate this information, as well as a host of information from the non-relocating parent, prior to making any determination.

Parental relocation of a co-parent with child is a common issue within family law. New career opportunities arise as well as new relationships and better options for a higher standard of living. When evaluating relocation requests the court takes many factors into consideration. The first of these factors is considering what arrangement is in the best interests of the child. As with all custody agreements, the court looks to make all determinations based on what is best for the child. The court may take into consideration the quality and duration of the child’s relationship to both parents as well as the emotional impact of losing regular visitation with one parent in favor of a relocation. The court may consider the child’s desires in the situation; taking the time to interview him/her about the situation and what he/she would want. The court may consider the impact of the move on the child’s ability to maintain a relationship with the non-relocating parent as well as how the relocation will impact the child’s development physically, emotionally, and educationally. The court will seek to determine the primary reason for the relocation while taking into consideration relocations that are planned in the best interests of the child; offering an improved quality of life, greater financial opportunity or educational opportunities. If either parent has a criminal history, the court will factor this into the decision-making; particularly if there is a history of domestic violence or substance abuse.

Ultimately, the court seeks to ensure that the decisions made about relocation are made in good faith and are in the best interests of the child. Both parents, the relocating and non-relocating parent should seek legal aid to represent them throughout the course of this process. A skilled, family law attorney can provide legal advice and representation for a custody case involving a parental relocation.