"My ex-spouse exercises visitation with our kids, but I want to move with them to another state. Can we go?"
Florida law evaluates each request to relocate with minor children on a case-by-case basis. There is no presumption in favor of or against relocation but, if your settlement agreement or divorce decree contains a restriction on relocation, it will be tougher to get court permission to relocate.
The most important factor a judge considers is whether the best interests of the children will be promoted by the move. The court will consider whether the move will improve the children's quality of life, the moving parent's quality of life, and whether alternative visitation arrangements can be made so that the other parent will still have quality visitation. The court will consider how often the other parent has exercised visitation in the past, what added transportation and lodging costs may be involved, and whether either parent is acting vindictively.
A parent wishing to relocate with minor children needs to build up a strong case for moving. The parent needs to have solid reasons to move, such as remarriage, better employment opportunities, availability of family to help in child-rearing and baby-sitting, and better educational opportunities for the children. The parent opposing the move needs to have solid reasons to oppose the move, beyond arguing that there will be less visitation if the relocation is permitted. Unreasonable transportation costs and travel time, poorer school systems, inability to complete religious education, availability of local family and friends, and psychological damage to the children all argue against relocation.
Whether you want to move or to prevent a move, you need to be prepared. There are no guarantees the move will be allowed or prohibited, so you need to make a strong presentation on why you should get what you want.
Joel H. Feldman is a Managing Member of the Law Office of Feldman & Schneiderman. He has been practicing law in south Florida for 24 years and is rated "AV" and "Preeminent" by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Publications.