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Moving away--How far is too far?

The case of Halbert v. Morico decided by the Florida Court of Appeals is instructive as to the legal impact of a parent's relocation on child custody and visitation under Florida law.
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    February 25, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Moving away--How far is too far?

Article provided by Beth M. Terry, P.A.
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It happens quite often--two parents, a divorce, sharing custody in the same geographic area. Then, for might be very good reasons, one of the parents moves from the area--sometimes moving hundreds of miles away. The battles of divorce, thought to be over, are reborn.

The case of Halbert v. Morico decided by the Florida Court of Appeals is instructive as to the legal impact of a parent's relocation on child custody and visitation under Florida law. In this case, the father, who shared custody of his son with the mother, relocated from Largo to Bradon to take a new job, a distance of about 45 miles. On the days that the father had custody, his employer allowed him the flexibility to drive his son the 45 miles back and forth to his school; obviously the trip to school and school-related activities was longer. The mother filed a petition to modify the prior custody provisions on the ground that the father's move constituted a substantial change in circumstances. The trial court found in favor of the mother and modified the previous custody provisions. The Court of Appeals reversed.

Florida statutes provide that a parenting plan or a time-sharing schedule may not be modified unless there is a showing of "a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances and a determination that the modification is in the best interests of the child." The degree of change thus must be of a substantial character.

The court noted that the mere fact of a parent's relocation is not, in and of itself, a substantial change if it is not a significant distance from the child's current location. If previous cases, the court ruled that a mother's move to Plantation from North Miami Beach was not a substantial change; in another case, the court found that a move of several hundred miles away did meet the "substantial" standard, when there was little opportunity for the father to visit this child. But in a third case, the court found that a relocation from Ft. Meyers to Gainesville, a distance of 230 miles, was not a substantial change--there being no significant interference with the father's visitation, even though the child spent a considerable amount of time in a car on the weekends.

In the case of Halbert v. Morico, the court found that the 45-mile move to Bradon did not significantly interfere with the mother's time with her son, and the longer time the child had to spent in transit to school and school-related activities was simply not significant. The Court of Appeals ruled: no significant change in circumstances.

The facts of any particular relocation going to be unique and anyone contemplating such a move should consult with an experienced Florida family law attorney to evaluate the issues and implications.

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