Last September, I published a blog questioning why a relocating parent who was not the majority time-sharing parent is freely allowed to relocate without any consideration of the best interests of the child. At that time, the First District Court of Appeal had ruled that the relocation statute applied only to majority time-sharing relocating parents who wanted to relocate with the child. Because no other district court of appeal had ruled differently, trial courts all over the state were required to follow the First District’s interpretation of the relocation statute.
Well, our very own Second District Court of Appeal has recently disagreed with the Fourth District and ruled that the relocation statute applies to any parent or person with time-sharing rights, not just to the majority time-sharing parent. The Second District certified the conflict to the Florida Supreme Court to resolve which district court’s interpretation of the relocation statute is correct. I’m rooting for the Second District.
In a very logically reasoned opinion, the Second District noted that the Florida legislature rewrote the relocation statute in 2008, removing certain terms like “primary residential parent” and “nonresidential parent.” Instead, both parents were viewed as “time-sharing” parents. The new statutory language required “a parent or other person seeking relocation” to “file a petition to relocate and serve it upon the other parent, and every other person entitled to access to or time-sharing with the child.” In view of the change in statutory language, among other reasons, the Second District concluded that even a noncustodial parent must seek court permission to relocate if the other parent won’t agree to the relocation.
This is a wonderful ruling that truly ensures that the best interests of the child are primary when either parent wishes to relocate. Judge Villanti, who wrote the opinion for the Court, and fellow panel members, Judge Northcutt and Judge Black are to be commended for finally freeing all Florida trial courts not controlled by the First District’s interpretation —- at least until the Florida Supreme Court decides otherwise —to protect the best interest of the child who will have to alter his or her life to accommodate the relocating parent. Well done, Your Honors.
If you or your former spouse is considering relocating, consulting with an experienced family law attorney can greatly benefit your understanding of the legal challenges involved in relocating. Under this new ruling, it is imperative that both parents understand their rights and obligations under Florida’s relocation statute.