Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Child Custody

What standard is used to determine whether or not a relocation request is in the best interest of a child in Florida? One appellate case published last year sheds light on this issue by way of a Florida child custody case involving an active duty military parent.

In Saponara v. Saponara, 4D18-44 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018), the when the parties were originally divorced, the father was serving in the Coast Guard in California and the mother moved to Maryland with the parties’ child. The original divorce decree allowed the father 10 visits in Maryland and 2 visits in California each year, based on the fact that the father could work remotely from a nearby Coast Guard station in Maryland.

Seven months after the final judgment was entered, the mother petition to relocate to North Carolina. The father objected, noting doing so would decrease his timesharing because the closest Coast Guard station was three hours away. After a trial, the trial court entered an order granting the mother’s request for relocation conditioned upon the father being able to exercise all of his visits in California. The mother appealed, arguing there was no substantial change in circumstances that warranted changing the father’s visitation locations.

The appellate court disagreed with the mother, holding “Contrary to the mother's argument, the focus in a relocation case is not on whether there is a substantial and material change in circumstances [. . .] ‘The policies behind the modification based on changed circumstances test "are to honor the res judicata effect of the original final judgment . . . and to preclude parties to a dissolution from continually disrupting the lives of children by initiating repeated custody disputes. ‘Those policies do not apply to a relocation proceeding instituted in good faith. If one parent is relocating, the child's life will be disrupted and the goal in crafting the modified timesharing schedule is to ensure frequent, continuing, and meaningful contact between the nonrelocating parent and the child. The relocation statute anticipates that the court will modify the parties' timesharing schedule (internal citations omitted).”

Florida relocation cases are many times difficult to decide because there are strong competing interests. Schedule a consultation with a Miami child custody lawyer to go over your best defenses and strategies in your Miami relocation case.