Can the Primary Parent Move with the Child Out of State

The Florida courts do not demand notification to the co-parent prior to taking children across state lines. However, the child custody agreement does spell out the specific steps to which the parents must adhere. 

The Child Custody Agreement

The major purpose of the child custody agreement is to protect the best interest of the children. If there are limitations to taking a child out-of-state, it will be spelled out in the custody agreement. This is a document specifically for your situation, and no child custody agreements are alike. Not all these agreements automatically limit out-of-state travel with the children, such as if the grandparents live nearby but across state lines. 

Traveling Out State Following the Divorce

As has been pointed out, not all child custody agreements limit such travel. Nor does Florida law. This is especially true if such travel occurs during the co-parent’s scheduled visitation time. 

Certain states do restrict a co-parent’s or primary parent’s ability to take the children out of state. The major reason is for the safety of the children. Another reason is that some parents have moved out-of-state during the divorce proceedings to get more leverage over the soon-to-be ex. 

When Moving Out of State with the Children

Moving the children permanently out of state needs to be addressed at the time of the child custody agreement. If the issue is not mentioned in the agreement, there are laws in some states that automatically restrict such a move without the consent of the co-parent. These states require that the custodial parent formally inform the non-custodial parent of the intended move. The non-custodial parent has the right to object and file such an objection with the court. 

The court will consider a variety of issues that will invariably involve the best interest of the child, such as the child’s relationship with the custodial parent, the effect on the child, as well as the reason for the move. A custodial parent who moves a child despite the state’s laws forbidding such an act can find him or herself in contempt of court. 

Communicating the Move to the Non-Custodial Parent

If the child custody agreement does not specify the need for the ex’s consent prior to an out-of-state move, and if there is no specific state law preventing it, it is still a good idea to inform the other parent of these plans. The non-custodial parent should be aware of the child’s location and how to reach him or her. If the law does not require this, the interest of the child does. 

If there are any questions about how to approach the ex-spouse, a family law attorney can be of tremendous assistance.

How to Relocate a Child Out of State 

In the State of Florida, the definition of “relocation” is defined as a move 50 or more miles away from the original location which consists of no less than 60 consecutive days. This means that the definition could be applied to a move within the state. However, this definition does exclude vacations.

The first step should be to discuss relocation with the other parent. If he or she agrees, a petition to the court may not be needed. However, in most cases, the custodial parent will file a Petition to Relocate with a Child to be served officially on the non-custodial parent and any other parent with the right to spend time with the child (such as grandparents).

The Petition should include the new location, the new mailing address, the new phone number (if available), the anticipated date of the move, and the reason for relocating the child (such as a job offer). The Respondent (non-custodial parent) has 20 days to respond. If he or she fails to do so, the court will agree to the move. If there is a response, the court will hold a hearing on the matter to decide what is in the child’s best interest. 

What About the Distance of the Relocation?

As has been stated, legally, the court defines relocation as a distance greater than 50 miles for longer than 60 consecutive days. If this is the case, the relocating parent must convince the court that:

  1. Both parents agree on the move.
  2. Both agree to a revision in the child custody schedule.
  3. Both agree on the means of transportation for the child during scheduled visits.

This may require a modification of the child custody schedule that is already in place.


Moving a child some distance from the non-custodial parent is not a decision to be made lightly, even if there is a good reason. A parent planning on a relocation with a child needs to carefully review the terms of the child custody agreement or the pertinent state laws. To avoid any possible legal problems, it is best to contact a family law attorney.

The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.

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