Relocations from the Judge’s Perspective

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Relocation on Friday, October 10, 2014.

Parent and child divorce cases are some of the most challenging. If denied, a parent may be forced to move without their child. If granted, a parent is crushed, a child could be harmed, and there is a timesharng schedule to work out.

It is always helpful to hear about them from the view of a sitting judge who makes the decision. Whenever a judge writes on relocation, I try to pass along that information as I’ve done before.

Judge Sally D.M. Kest is a judge in Orange County. She recently published an article in The Commentator, a magazine published by our Family Law Section. I currently serve as the Chair of the Commentator for the 2014-2015 term.

Judge Kest has found that many attorneys do not comply with the relocation statute. For example, they forget to present evidence about the factors involving the child’s relationships, fixating instead on the relocating parent will have more time, or more money, or will be happier.

One argument concerns the future parent/child relationship becoming as good, or even better, because the child and non-relocating parent will have extended timesharing during the summer or vacations.

This ignores the benefits of having regular contact with a child. Daily contact allows the parent to be involved in the daily life, friends, school and extra-curricular activities of the child.

One problem in relocation cases is balancing the statutory factors and the parent’s reason for relocation. The typical reasons for relocation include: remarriage of a parent, a new job offer, a job transfer, a desire to pursue additional educational opportunities, or a desire to be closer to extended family.

While these life events may result in some positive benefits for the child, the court must balance these benefits against the loss of regular and consistent contact with the non-relocating parent.

Another problem overlooked is that people forget to consider the child’s loss of frequent contact with the stay home parent. Failing to acknowledge that the move will significantly affect the parent/child relationship can result in of the court denying the relocation.

People also forget that for the court to make findings and decision regarding the relocation, the facts presented at the evidentiary hearing must address the statutory factors.

In Florida, there is no presumption for or against relocation. The court must, however, consider the best interest of the child. Petitions for relocation are given priority on the court’s calendar.

Relocation cases are intense. You must present the facts in the case that will support the relocation. Parents who recognize these facts and address them in their trials will be more likely to have their relocations granted.

Judge Kest’s article can be found here.