Relocating Your Child After Divorce

File a Notice of Intent to Relocate!

When you are divorced and you are the primary residential parent to a child and your ex-spouse has visitation rights, relocating your child to a new principal residence more than 50 miles away from your previous residence has many implications for you and every other person entitled to visitation with your child. Failure to comply may lead to adverse results. Take, for example, this scenario:

You have been divorced for 3 years, you have a minor child, and you are the primary residential parent by court designation. Since the divorce, you have lived in the same house in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but now you feel it’s time to move. Whether moving for a new job, a new location, or a better investment opportunity, you have decided to pick up and move you and your child to northern Florida. How do you go about relocating with your child without running afoul of the law? One of the most efficient ways of handling relocation is crafting a relocation agreement with the secondary residential parent.

What is child relocation?

Relocation of a child means when a parent moves a child from his principal residence. This could mean within the same city, the same county, or the same state; or it could mean moving the child to another state or even another country. Moving a child from his principal place of residence may result in an interference with a parent’s visitation or time-sharing with the child. However, this does not mean that any relocation needs to be regulated by the court.

If the relocation is within 50 miles of the child’s principal place of residence, it is unlikely that a court will find the relocation to be wrongful. Conversely, if the court has established a parenting plan and the parent relocates with the child without a written agreement with the other parent or court leave, the relocating parent may be held responsible and order the child to be returned.

How can I properly relocate with a child under Texas law?

Enter into a written agreement with the other parent wherein the other parent agrees with such relocation. If the other parent does not agree to a relocation, you may ask the court for permission to relocate with the child. You must notice a parent before relocating and the other parents decide whether to object to the relocation or not.

What can I do if my child was improperly relocated?

If the other parent has improperly relocated with the child, you may request the court to order the child to be returned. If the court grants your request, the child must be returned or the other parent may be held in contempt of court.

Create a relocation agreement

The primary residential parent and the secondary residential parent may enter into a written agreement before moving more than 50 miles away. However, the agreement must:

  1. consent to the relocation;
  2. define visitation rights for the non-relocating parent; and
  3. describe any transportation arrangements that may be necessary for proper visitation.

If you have an existing court order that relates to the child’s primary residence or visitation, you must seek ratification of the agreement by court order, which will evaluate the best interest of the child. Furthermore, a relocation agreement may address the added cost to the non-relocating secondary residential parent for travel expenses related to visitation with the child.

While there are other avenues to follow when relocating more than 50 miles from Houston or any other Texas town, a relocation agreement may be the best method for resolving a potentially thorny matter.

Dads: A Child’s Response to Her Absent Father

In most cases, fathers who stop seeing their children do so for their own emotional health and self-preservation, but in doing so they place a damaging burden on their children. A friend of mine raised three girls without the involvement or support of their father. Now grown women, they continue to have self-doubts and relationship issues that stem from the absence of their father as they were growing up. The following is a portion of a letter one of them recently wrote to her dad. She is now 24.

“Why don’t you ever write to me? I’ve written you letters, sent emails and birthday cards, but you never write back. Don’t you love me? Don’t you care about me? I am your daughter but I feel abandoned. Am I that unlovable? I want to get to know you again but you seem to have closed your heart. Please write back otherwise I don’t think I can keep trying. It’s just too hard.”

The children who heal fastest from divorce are those who enjoy the love, support, and involvement of both parents. As a father, it’s essential that you remain part of your children’s daily lives during and after divorce. You need to be in the crowd cheering at soccer and Little League games. You need to be in the audience at dance recitals and school programs. You need to attend parent-teacher conferences. You need to help with homework, comfort your child when they’re sick, go out for ice cream, play catch at the park — all the things you did when you lived together as a family. It’s the way you show your kids that you love them and that you’ll always be there for them.

How to File a Notice of Intent to Relocate

We discussed formulating an agreement between you and your ex-spouse when you want to move your minor child more than 50 miles away after residency has been determined in the dissolution of marriage proceeding (your divorce). In that example, we said that the primary residential parent is living in Fort Lauderdale, and she wanted to move with her child to northern Florida. Let’s use that same example. However, instead of formulating an agreement, the mom realizes she will never be able to come to a complete, written agreement with her ex-spouse concerning the relocation of her child. Rest assured, there is another avenue at her disposal affording her the opportunity to legally relocate to northern Florida with her child.

In Florida, unless there is a written agreement between the parents concerning the relocation of their minor child, a mother who is entitled to the primary residency of this child is permitted to take other steps to ensure her notification to the father is proper. Mom’s first step must be to notify the other parent of the proposed relocation of the child’s principal residence by preparing a Notice of Intent to Relocate. Here is a sample one. Such notices must conform to the Florida Statutes, therefore, please look to our sample to ensure proper compliance with Florida laws.

To encourage resolution without court involvement, Florida provides that the mother should first serve the notice upon the former husband. The mother should only file with the court if her ex-husband objects. When first serving it upon the father, her official notice should include a Certificate of Filing Notice of Intent to Relocate, which certifies the date it was served. And finally, absent a pending court action, the mom can serve this notice via certified mail, restricted delivery, with a return receipt requested.

After your notice has been served, the non-residential parent has 30 days to object. If the non-residential parent fails to object within this time frame, the relocation is permissible. However, if the non-residential parent, the father, in this case, does object within 30 days, he must state the specific reasons to deny the relocation, which must include the amount of involvement he has in the child’s life. It is at this point, the court must get involved. If the father files an objection, the mother now must rely on the court, and she has the burden to initiate court proceedings to obtain the court’s permission to relocate the child.

How can my divorce attorney help me?

We can help in either of the following:

  • Drafting a proper child relocation agreement
  • Bring a petition before the court to request permission to relocate; or
  • Bring a motion before the court to hold the parent who relocated wrongfully in contempt and order the child to be returned.
  • My child has been relocated to another country, I am in another country and my child has been relocated to the United States wrongfully, or I have relocated my child and I am being subject to a Hague Convention petition.

If you are thinking about relocating your child more than fifty miles away after a dissolution, please contact an attorney to consider all your options.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.