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Is My Ex-Spouse Allowed to Take Our Child Out of the Country?
Many factors affect whether your ex-spouse can take your child out of the country. Even if your child custody order falls into a gray area, your ex-spouse can petition a judge for permission to take your child out of the country.
Whether a judge grants this petition will also depend on several factors. In Florida, specific statutes set out the elements that a judge must consider when rendering a decision.
In this guide, we’ll explore when your ex-spouse can take your child out of the country and what to do if you want to oppose your ex-spouse’s plans.
What is Your Ex-Spouse’s Reason for Leaving the Country?
Florida has no uniform rule against a custodial parent taking a child out of the country. This means that in most situations, your ex-spouse can take your child out of the country if they follow certain procedural steps.
The steps required will depend on the purpose of leaving the country.
If your ex-spouse wants to travel out of the country with your child, you need to take a look at your custody order. Most custody orders list the steps you and your ex-spouse must follow when traveling with your child.
If your custody order lacks a travel clause, you have limited grounds to object to foreign travel. Your best chance of stopping the travel plans will be if the travel will interfere with your parenting time.
You can also block your ex-spouse’s travel plans by refusing to facilitate them. The U.S. State Department requires both parents to sign a passport application. If you refuse to sign, your child cannot obtain a passport.
Most countries also require a signed permission letter for a child to enter the country with only one parent. If you refuse to write the letter, the immigration officials in the destination country can block your child from entry.
Ultimately, you may need to use the dispute resolution process from your child custody order. Depending on your order, this may include mediation, arbitration, or a court hearing to resolve your child’s travel plans.
Florida defines relocation as any move more than 50 miles from a parent’s current residence for more than 60 days. The definition excludes travel for vacation, education, or healthcare for the child.
The Two Procedures for Relocating with a Child
Under Florida’s relocation statute, your ex-spouse has two options for relocating with your child: relocation by agreement and relocation by petition.
Relocation by Agreement
You and your ex-spouse can agree on the relocation of your child. The agreement must include:
Your consent to the relocation
A new time-sharing schedule
How you and your ex-spouse will handle transportation for your parenting time
If you refuse to consent to your child’s relocation, your ex-spouse cannot relocate your child using this option.
Relocation by Petition
If you refuse permission to relocate your child, your ex-spouse can petition the court.
The petition must include:
Specific reasons for the proposed relocation with supporting evidence
A proposal for a new time-sharing schedule
A proposal for transportation necessary for the new time-sharing schedule
You must respond to the petition. If you fail to respond to the petition, the court presumes relocation is in the child’s best interests and will grant the petition.
If you oppose the relocation, the judge will use the “best interests of the child” test to resolve the matter.
The parent seeking permission to relocate must persuade the judge that relocation is in your child’s best interest. If they meet that burden, you can try to rebut their case by showing relocation is against your child’s best interests.
Contact a child custody lawyer if your ex-spouse is trying to relocate or travel with your child outside of the country against your wishes.