Fighting over your child in the midst of a divorce or heated paternity case can be enormously stressful to say the least, and for good reason. After all, your relationship with your child can be dictated by the outcome of a child custody dispute. That’s why you should do everything in your power to ensure that you’re putting forth strong arguments when it comes to obtaining your initial child custody and visitation order.
You might think that disputes over your child will end there, but the truth of the matter is that they probably won’t. This is because nearly every change in your life affects your child and, as a result, affects either your relationship with your child or your child’s relationship with his or her other parent. This is especially true when it comes to parental relocation.
Parental relocation by consent
Parental relocation in the child custody context can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the child’s parents can simply agree to relocation while still providing for an appropriate level of access for the noncustodial parent.
Parental relocation when challenged
When disagreement arises, however, the relocating parent must file a petition with the court requesting authorization to relocate with the child. That petition must be served on the child’s other parent. Within the petition, the relocating parent must specify where the relocation will occur, the reason for the relocation, and a proposed time-sharing schedule that indicates when, where, and how visitation will occur.
Once the other parent receives notice of that petition, he or she has 20 days to file an objection. If this objection is untimely, then it is presumed that the relocation is in the child’s best interests. Therefore, filing an objection quickly is crucial, and it must be specific as to why an objection has been made.
How the courts address contested relocation
It’s important to keep in mind that the court will always decide child custody matters based on what it believes supports the child’s best interests. To reach that conclusion in a relocation case, the court will likely consider all of the following factors:
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The child’s age
- The child’s developmental and educational needs
- How relocation will affect the child’s developmental and educational needs
- The likelihood that the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent will be maintained should the relocation occur
- The child’s preference
- How, if at all, relocation will improve the child’s quality of life
- The reasoning behind each parent’s position
- Whether the relocation will improve the parent’s financial circumstances
- Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse by either parent
It’s worth noting here that Florida law has a catch-all provision that allows a court to consider any other factor that it determines to be pertinent to the child’s best interests. This means that if you find yourself amidst a relocation dispute, then you’ve got a lot of room to work with when building your arguments.
Know how to build the persuasive arguments that you need
The burden of proof in a relocation case rests with the parent seeking to relocate. If you’re that parent, then you need strong evidence that speaks to why the relocation is in your child’s best interests. Consider your career prospects and how that may positively impact your child’s life, as well as educational opportunities that may be provided to your child by moving.
If you’re a non-relocating parent, then you need evidence that shows how moving will be detrimental to your child. This often includes evidence that shows how your relationship with be harmed by the distance.
Regardless of which side you’re on, it can be difficult to avoid getting tangled in the weeds of a child custody dispute, especially when emotions are running on high. However, you don’t have to face these matters alone. Instead, you can work closely with a skilled family law team like ours that can help you craft the legal arguments that you need to support your position and protect your child’s best interests.