A parent’s right to enjoy physical parenting time with their children after getting a divorce from the other parent is subject to what is known as a “parental timesharing agreement.” Historically, parental timesharing was referred to as “child custody and visitation.” However, recent updates to Florida family law revised these labels.
Issues regarding parental timesharing must be resolved upon considering the child’s best interests. When determining whether a parental timesharing arrangement serves the child’s best interests, courts must consider several factors under Florida Statutes § 61.13.
Relocations and Modifications
A parent must comply with the terms under an agreement or court order concerning parental timesharing. Courts expect parents to make necessary accommodations to adhere to the schedule for parental timesharing. However, the terms of a timesharing agreement or order may be modified if a substantial change of circumstances justifies changing its terms.
In some situations, a parent’s decision to relocate for employment purposes, for example, may qualify as a substantial change of circumstances that warrants a modification of a parental timesharing agreement. However, as with initial determinations for parental timesharing and responsibility issues, the parent’s relocation must comport with the child’s best interests.
Relocations and Hull v. Hull
On May 31, 2019, the Florida Court of Appeal for the Fifth District in Hull v. Hull tackled the issue of modifying a parental timesharing arrangement based on a parent’s decision to move to another residence.
In the Hull case, a father appealed a court determination denying his petition to relocate to a 40-acre farm in Oregon under Florida Statutes § 61.13001, which provides that “a parent…seeking relocation must file a petition to relocate and serve it upon the other parent…” However, his children resided with his ex-wife under their timesharing arrangement at that time, which allowed him to have one mid-week dinner with them as well as alternate weekends, among other terms.
After filing his petition for relocation, but before the court made a ruling, the father voluntarily relocated to Oregon without his children.
After a three-day trial on the issue, where the court weighed all statutory factors concerning parental timesharing, it found that moving to Oregon was not in the children’s best interest and declined to modify the father’s timesharing arrangement to accommodate the move.
The trial court noted that the provisions of section 61.13001 did not empower it to alter the timesharing arrangement to accommodate the father’s plan to move to Oregon, especially after finding that relocation would not be in the children’s best interest.
On appeal, the father argued that the trial court’s denial of his request violated Florida’s public policy favoring frequent and continuing contact between a child and both parents as well as his constitutional right to travel.
The Fifth District Court of Appeal of Florida affirmed the trial court’s denial, holding that father’s public policy argument “cannot be utilized to countermand the statutory requirements that a parent must show to support relocation under the plain language of section 61.13001.”
Additionally, because the father did not raise his constitutional concern with the trial court, the court of appeal could not reverse the trial court’s judgment on that basis.
Ultimately the Court of Appeal pointed out that the father’s inability to exercise his parental rights under the existing parental timesharing agreement was “the result of the choice he made to relocate to Oregon, prior to the determination of his petition to do so.”
In conclusion, a parent’s need to relocate is subordinate to the child’s best interests.
Contact a Skilled Attorney at Bauer Law Group, P.A. for Legal Representation
If you have questions or concerns regarding your parental rights under a parental timesharing agreement, you should consult a family law attorney from Bauer Law Group, P.A. Our legal team is dedicated to guiding you through the complex legal issues of Florida family law, including those involving one’s parental timesharing rights and responsibilities.
Please call us at (352) 310-8169 or contact our office online to schedule a consultation about your case today.