Long-Distance Child Custody in Florida

Life happens. First, there was the divorce. Then, there was the amazing job opportunity that demanded a far-away move. When someone who is sharing custody of children needs to move a long distance, it can create a lot of worry and tension. Not only does it affect the relationship with the children, but it also creates legal questions.

How far can a parent move if they share legal custody? In the state of Florida, “long-distance” custody means that the parents are fifty or more miles apart. Moving to a new state won’t force someone to abide by a whole new set of laws or rules. If the divorce took place in Florida, then Florida rulings will apply no matter where the parents end up.

Once parents find themselves in a long-distance custody situation, they will need to fill out the Long-Distance Parenting Plan.

Long-Distance Parenting Plan

Everything rests on the Long-Distance Parenting Plan. In the state of Florida, parents have the option to work on the Parenting Plan and agree to its terms together. This is always the best option, assuming everyone can get along. The more parents can come up with a mutually beneficial plan for any divorce-related matters, the less time, cost, frustration, and disappointment they will have to endure when decisions are made by the court.

If parents can’t agree to a parenting plan, the courts will do it for them. This can be pretty painful, as the plan is detailed. Courts will always side with what they consider to be the “best interest” of the child. This means that a parent, if deemed unfit for certain functions, can be left out of major aspects of raising the child. Right on top, the first thing the Parenting Plan delegates is decision making power. First, power can be given jointly, where both parents are given an equal say in major decisions. The next option is to give specific parents power over specific decisions when they can’t agree. Jane, for example, has final say over health concerns, but Jim has final say over educational matters. Lastly, power can be given solely, where only one parent has the authority to make certain decisions.

The details don’t stop there. Moving down the document, there is a section for extracurricular activities, including which parent will pay what percent for these activities. Next up is a section for scheduling, which is so specific that parents can choose which specific holidays will be spent with which parent; or they can choose not to interrupt the schedule at all, regardless of holidays. The Parenting Plan has a section for number of overnights per year; it details who is responsible for transportation, what mode of transportation, and who’s paying; it outlines who communicates with who, how they communicate, and how often; there are even penalties built in for when one party forgets to contact the other or if they arrive late.

Unless someone has a wonderful relationship with their ex, it is best practice for them to fill out this plan with the help of a lawyer. If something goes wrong when building this mountain of specific agreements, it can result in everything from hurt feelings to legal trouble.

The good news is that while new arrangements will need to be made, people don’t have to lose custody of their children when a long-distance move is necessary. Former partners should work with one another and their lawyers to create an arrangement that will be best for the children.

If you need a lawyer to help you work through a Long-Distance Parenting Plan, we are here to help. Consultations are free and there’s no risk involved, so call today at (305) 853-9161 or contact us online.