A child relocation case was recently decided by the Florida Court of Appeal in a case captioned C.G. v. MM. In this case, the mother appealed the trial court’s decision concerning custody and visitation. The parents were unmarried and separated in 2010. They had one child. The parties did not enter into a formal parenting plan, however, they divided their timesharing equally. Eventually, the mother entered into a new relationship and had a second child with her boyfriend. The mother lived in Pinellas County. She decided that she was going to move to Hillsborough County at some time in the future.
At trial, the judge awarded the father majority timesharing and granted the parents shared parental responsibility. The trial court also ruled that when the mother moves to Hillsborough County, during the school year, the child was to spend more timesharing with the father. The mother received timesharing every other weekend, and the parties were to equally divide the holidays. The ruling was based upon the mother’s anticipated move to Hillsborough County.
The Florida Statues set forth the procedure to relocate a child. Unless the parties can agree to the relocation, the parent desiring to relocate must file a Supplemental Petition for Relocation. The parent desiring the relocation bears the burden of proof, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the relocation is in the child’s best interest. Once that burden of proof is met, the burden of proof shifts to the objecting parent to demonstrate that the relocation is not in the best interest of the child.
The child custody relocation statute contains over thirty factors that the trial court is required to consider in ruling on a Supplemental Petition for Relocation. Some of the factors that the Court is required to consider include: (a) the nature of each of the parent’s relationship with the child; (b) the impact the relocation will have on the child’s educational, physical and emotional development; (c) the ability to preserve the child’s relationship with the nonrelocating parent; (d) whether the relocation will enhance the quality of life for the parent and the child; and (e) whether the relocation will improve the parent’s economic circumstances. The determination of whether it would be in the child’s best interest to relocate is decided at the final hearing and must be made based upon substantial and competent evidence.