You are the majority time-sharing parent, and you want to relocate with your child. Before you embark upon this new adventure, you need to be aware that long distance relocation is quite often prohibited, or at least well controlled by the final judgment. However, you’re in luck; there is no presumption in favor of or against a request to relocate with the child. The courts weigh the benefits of the move against the disruption to your former husband’s visitation rights. But the ultimate decision will always be based on the best interests of the child.
The court will consider whether the relocation will enhance the overall quality of life for both you as the parent seeking the relocation and the child. The court will also evaluate if the relocation is sought in good faith. Good faith reasons for relocation are given fair consideration by the court; they may include reasons such as wanting to be closer to family to help with child care responsibilities, a new job (an actual job offer, not just looking), better cost or standard of living and continuing education. The court will frown upon and likely not allow relocation if it is sought for bad-faith reasons, such as revenge, retaliation or just to get him out of the picture.
Relocation is a big decision and warrants thoughtful consideration. The key - you must have a plan. Here are the top five things you need to consider when relocating after divorce:
1. If you and your former spouse can come to an agreement, the entire process will be much easier. If you are looking to move to a location more than 50 miles away, try and come to an agreement with your former husband. You can then submit your agreement to the court as a well thought-out written arrangement that specifies the time-sharing rights for both of you, and if necessary any travel/transportation arrangements. If however you are not in agreement to the move, then you, as the parent seeking relocation, must ask the court for permission to do so, and you will need to provide the court with your plan.
2. What is your plan? Give the court details. Do you have a job or a job offer? Have you selected a town or a home? Have you visited schools? How are you going to address the impact of the move on your child’s relationship with your former husband? And what are the potential timesharing arrangements for such a long distance move?
3. Be prepared to be generous with timesharing and contact. If the move is allowed, visitation will be rearranged so that visitation is less frequent but lasts longer. The reduction in weekly timesharing will likely result in long summer and school vacation visits. You may find your child’s visitation with your former husband will consume an entire holiday period. If your former husband can’t make the trip to your new home, you will need to allow him reasonable access to your child. Significant contact may be maintained between your child and former husband using technology such as cell phone, FaceTime, Skype, text, email, etc., and you may need to make sure that such technology is readily accessible to your child to facilitate this contact. This all costs money.
4. Who does what and how is it paid for? Long distance timesharing can be both time consuming and costly. How will your child get to and from visitation with your former husband? Car – who will drive? Plane – who will fly with the child? Travel expenses will be paid by one of you or shared depending on your financial situations. In addition, you must be aware that child support payments will be adjusted, according to the new living arrangements of the child. Consider as many of these things as you can, and then talk to an attorney.
5. What to expect from your attorney…Relocation is a big decision and a complex issue. You must be informed and prepared. The right attorney will guide you through the process and take the time not only to explain the legal issues but also assist you with setting your goals and creating a strategy to help you achieve those goals. Your attorney should guide you with regards to the petition you present to the court and the evidence you need to favorably support your petition. Your attorney should also help you with your plan and then help you achieve that plan by persuading the court that it is not only easily implemented, but that it is in best interest of your child.
The Quick Law Group, providing divorce and family law for women, is located at 4312 Pablo Professional Park in Jacksonville. The firm works with women so they are able to gain freedom through their divorce. For more information, visit TheQuickLawGroup.com.