Judges Corner

The Legal Process of Relocation

Written by General Magistrate Steven Lieberman | slieberman@jud11.flcourts.org

The legal process of moving (from wherever you are) to Paradise (wherever that is and whether it is an Island or not) so long as it is more than 50 miles from where you now live (and it always is- because isn’t that the definition of Paradise-just being more than 50 miles from where you live).

This article will address three areas of concern: (1) Why is it necessary to get court permission to move? (2) What things are important (and not so important) to present to the court? (3) what occurs after the move?

Why is it necessary to get court permission prior to the move? The simple answer-because it affects the timesharing with the non-relocating parent. Every other weekend timesharing will no longer work as we do not want children spending excessive travel time in getting to the other parent’s home when compared to the amount of time spent there. The move must be in the child’s best interest, not the parents.  The timesharing schedule must be rearranged which usually means extended stays with the non-relocating parent during time off from school, holidays, entire summers (or at least majority timesharing).

What things to present to the court?

Many attorneys present the same standard stuff: The cost of living in Paradise is so much less, there is, of course, no crime rate in Paradise and there are high paying jobs just waiting for your application. If all of this is true, why wouldn’t the Judge and family be living there too? Rather than presenting these, quite frankly rather boring presentations, think about the “other stuff” that may get the Judge to grant your request.

  1. Explain why living in a 12-bedroom mansion is better for your child. Does it always mean that if the children have a bigger home that it is better for the child? Is an empty 12-bedroom mansion better than a smaller home filled with friends and family?
  2. Does your child make friends easily?
  3. What activities do the children enjoy and are those activities available in the new neighborhood?
  4. How are the children going to be impacted when they leave their best friend behind and move to Paradise where they know nobody?
  5. Has the relocating parent made any plans to get the child’s best friends together a few times during the year and how will the parent help transition the child to the new environment?
  6. What is the social environment like in the new location? Does it match your child’s needs for social development? Are languages the same? Religious issues or institutions? Was the child excelling in some sport and now, at the new location, the child is at the bottom?
  7. Does your child prefer a larger or smaller class size? Smaller class size but teacher is not of the same quality as compared with old location?

At the end of the day, these relocation cases are among the most challenging for the parents, lawyers, and judges. These are the cases that can easily cause loss of sleep. And what of those cases where the relocating parent wants to move out of the country?  To a non-Hague Convention location? In the eyes of the undersigned, the more non-economic information about the effects of the move on the child, the better. After all, the court must consider the totality of the circumstances in granting or denying a petition for relocation. Just presenting the economic benefits of a move may not win the day for the parent.

After the Move: These are things, the judge may never know about but which you, as the attorney, must be prepared to discuss with your client.

So, you have won, and your client is granted permission to move. Has your client thought of the practical effects of that move on the parent.  You have moved away from the annoying, bothersome, and non-child support paying parent. The timesharing has been modified so that the non-relocating parent gets to see the child less often but when there is timesharing, that parent spends significant uninterrupted time with the child. That means that whatever time the non-relocating parent spends with the child(ren) will always be “fun time”. During the summer there is no daily homework to be done. It’s time for vacation and relaxation (child waking up late every day). The relocated  parent begins to resent the non-relocating favorite parent. Exactly the opposite of what was to be accomplished by filing the petition for relocation.

Does the child and/or parent need professional (medical or psychological or addiction) intervention? Is the parent aware of any non-verbal signs to look for in the event the child does not want to stay in Paradise? Are  needed professionals available in the community? Does the relocating parent or child have a need for specialized medical care and are they available in the community?

When issues cannot be resolved between the parents, is there confusion (on the part of either parent) about where to bring an action? Is it the same old location or is it where the parent and child moved to?

What actions must the relocating parent take to get the child ready to go back to school and the demands of daily school and homework? Is there an available friend or family support system available in paradise to assist when needed? If so, what is the nature of that relationship? Has the relocating parent relied on that individual before or is that individual going to get tired and not be available to assist?  Has life, in paradise, become so stressful that the move does now not seem like it was such a great idea? Has that job worked out or are the new co-workers really a pain in the ass?

Remember, “Paradise is a state of mind rather than a state of the Union.”