A couple of days ago, the Tampa Bay Times highlighted an interesting story regarding child custody and visitation. This story begins with the divorce of a couple. The children are in their early teens and living with their mom. Although the mom has primary custody (or in today’s terminology majority time-sharing parent) the dad is very active in the lives of his children.
Next, the mom marries a man who is in the military. This man turns out to be a really great step-dad. He even has a cordial relationship with the children’s father. Professionally, the step-dad is really good at what he does. He is a Green Beret colonel assigned to Special Operations Command. The Army wants to send him to a coveted assignment for three years in England. There is one problem. He will not go to England without his new family.
In Florida, when relocation becomes an issue, the first step is to see whether the parents can reach an agreement on the relocation. In this case, the proposal advanced to the dad was the kids would spend school time in England with their mom and step-dad and summers with their dad. Their dad was not willing to concede. He felt that he would miss significant portions of his children’s lives.
Because the families could not agree, they took their dispute to court. Some of the factors that a court would consider in a request for relocation include the following: 1) The relative strength, nature, quality, extent of involvement and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent, siblings and other significant people; 2) Any prior agreements between the parents; 3) The intent and good faith of each person in seeking or opposing the move; 4) Whether there’s a pattern of conduct by the relocating parent that’s meant to improve or harm the non-relocating parent’s relationship with the child; 5) The child’s age, maturity and needs; 6) How much moving, or not moving, will impact the child’s physical, educational and emotional development and relationships with both parents; 7) The quality of life, resources and opportunities available to the child and the relocating parent in the current and new locations; 8) Any alternative arrangements that would help the child maintain a relationship with the other parent; 9) Whether it’s possible and desirable for the other parent to relocate at the same time; 10) The financial impact and logistics of allowing or stopping the relocation; 11)The child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child
Tampa Judge Daniel Sleet denied the petition to relocate. Judge Sleet ruled that “The evidence demonstrates that both children are very comfortable in their present environment . . .The idea of moving to Europe may be appealing to adolescents, but the reality of uprooting to another continent can be traumatic.”
Confronted with this decision, the colonel declined the assignment to England. You have to admire someone who decided to put his new family ahead of advancing his career.
While there are circumstances that will allow for the relocation of children with the majority time-sharing parent, this ruling highlights the difficulty involved in persuading a court that relocation could be in the best interest of a child.