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Know the Laws: Florida

UPDATED December 2, 2013

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Please consider getting help from a lawyer in your area before proceeding with court action. To find a legal services organization in your area, please go to the FL Finding a Lawyer page.

 

After an order in place

back to topIf the other parent fails to pay the child support that the court ordered, can I refuse to honor his/her visitation (time- sharing) rights?

No, you cannot refuse to honor the other parent's visitation (time-sharing) rights because s/he failed to pay the child support that the court ordered. If you refuse to honor the time sharing in the order, the court can order extra time to the other parent to make up for the lost visitation time. In addition, the court could punish you in the following ways:

  • ordering you to pay the costs and attorney fees that the father spent to enforce the time sharing schedule,
  • order you to take a parenting course, order you to perform community service,
  • modify (change) the parenting plan (which could mean giving sole responsibility to the father or changing the primary residence of the child) if it is in the best interests of the child to do so, and/or
  • order any other reasonable sanction (punishment) that the judge sees fit.*

* Fla. Stat. § 61.13(4)

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back to topWhat can I do if the other parent violates my rights to time-sharing or parental responsibility set forth in the parenting plan?

If the other parent violates your court-ordered rights in your parenting plan, you may file a petition to enforce your existing court order and ask the court to punish the parent for the violation. The court may punish the parent by ordering one of the other remedies listed in the prior question.*

* Fla. Stat. § 61.13(4)

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back to topCan anything be done to help prevent the other parent from removing our children from the state or country in violation of a custody order (parenting plan)?

Yes.  In a custody (parenting plan) proceeding (including a modification proceeding), if the judge believes there is substantial evidence of a risk that one party may violate the parenting plan and time-sharing schedule by removing the child from the state or country, the judge can order that the parent in question:

  • not remove the child from the state or this country without the notarized written permission of both parents or a further court order;
  • not take the child to a country that does not follow certain policies on international child abduction unless the other parent agrees in writing that the child may be taken to that country;
  • surrender any U.S. or foreign passport of the child or if the child does not yet have a passport, that the petitioner place the child's name in the federal Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program; and/or
  • post bond (money) or other security in an amount that would discourage an abduction and pay for the non-abducting parent's costs needed to locate the child if abducted.*

There are many factors that the judge will consider in determining whether any of the above-listed security measures are necessary and additional documents that the accused parent may have to provide to the court.**  You can find the actual language of the law on our FL Statutes page.   Note: There is an exception for domestic violence victims.  If you are a victim, and the other parent asks the judge to order these measures against you, you might be exempt (excused) from some of them if you can prove you are a victim (through a current injunction for protection against domestic violence, for example).***  Please seek the advice of a lawyer regarding this matter.  If you need assistance in finding a lawyer, go to our FL Finding a Lawyer page.

* Fla. Stat. § 61.45(1)
**
Fla. Stat. § 61.45(2)-(4)
*** Fla. Stat. § 61.45(7)

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back to topIf a custody order (parenting plan) is already in place, how can I get it changed?

Because custody (parenting plan) is decided in the best interests of the child, an order is never permanent. If you have a custody (parenting plan) order already in place, you may petition the court to make changes to it (modify it).  However, to change a custody order, you generally need to prove that there has been a "substantial change in circumstances" since the original custody determination and that it is the child's best interests to change the parenting plan. Furthermore, the substantial change must a material (important) change and something that was not reasonably envisioned at the time of the original custody order.*

If a court in Florida issued the child custody order (parenting plan) that you want to change, you may file the modification petition in the circuit court in the county in which either parent and the child reside or the circuit court in which the original order was issued.**  A request for a change in a custody order (parenting plan) can be very complicated.  If you want to change a custody order (parenting plan), we recommend that you seek the advice of a lawyer.  If you need help in finding a lawyer, you can find one on our FL Finding a Lawyer  page.

To find the location of the circuit courts in FL, go to our FL Courthouse Locations page.

* Wade v. Hirschman, 903 So.2d 928 (2005)
** F.S.A. § 61.13(2)(d)

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back to topI want to relocate with my child. What steps do I have to take?

Under Florida law, a parent who wants to relocate with his/her child has to follow specific steps.  “Relocation” means a change in location of your primary residence that is at least 50 miles away, and for at least 60 consecutive days -- this could be within the state of Florida or in another state.  (Note: this does not include a temporary absence from the principal residence for purposes of vacation, education, or the provision of health care for the child.)*

To petition the court for permission to relocate, the steps to follow are below.  (However, if the other parent will agree to the relocation in writing, you may not need to go through these steps.  See, instead, I want to relocate with my child and the other parent agrees.  What do I do?)
 
First, the law requires that you go to court and file a “Petition to Relocate with a Child” and serve it upon the other parent, and every other person entitled to access to or time-sharing with the child.  You should also keep an original copy for yourself.  This “Petition to Relocate with a Child” must include:

  1. A description of the location of the intended new residence, including the state, city, and specific physical address, if known.
  2. The mailing address of the intended new residence, if not the same as the physical address, if known.
  3. The home telephone number of the intended new residence, if known.
  4. The date of the intended move or proposed relocation.
  5. A detailed statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation of the child. If one of the reasons is based upon a job offer which has been out into writing, that written job offer must be attached to the petition.
  6. A proposal for the revised post-relocation schedule for access and time-sharing together with a proposal for the post-relocation transportation arrangements necessary for the time-sharing with the child to take place.
  7. The following statement, in all capital letters and in the same size type, or larger, as the type-face in the rest of your petition: “A RESPONSE TO THE PETITION OBJECTING TO RELOCATION MUST BE MADE IN WRITING, FILED WITH THE COURT, AND SERVED ON THE PARENT OR OTHER PERSON SEEKING TO RELOCATE WITHIN 20 DAYS AFTER SERVICE OF THIS PETITION TO RELOCATE. IF YOU FAIL TO TIMELY OBJECT TO THE RELOCATION, THE RELOCATION WILL BE ALLOWED, UNLESS IT IS NOT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD, WITHOUT FURTHER NOTICE AND WITHOUT A HEARING.”*

If the other parent or anyone else entitled to access or time-sharing files a response objecting to the petition to relocate, the judge will hold a hearing or trial where you will have to convince the judge that it is in the child’s best interests to relocate and you will have to get permission from the court before you can relocate.  If the other parent does NOT file a response objecting to the petition to relocate, you will still have to get an order from the judge but the judge will generally enter an order that reflects the changes you proposed in the petition.  This will be done without a court hearing.**

Note: For information on how to properly prepare and serve this Petition to Relocate, or how to properly serve an objection to the other parent’s petition to relocate, please contact the courthouse in your county and/or talk to a lawyer who specializes in custody matters in Florida.  If you need assistance in finding a lawyer, you can find free and paid lawyers on our FL Finding a Lawyer page.  Also, if you are a victim of domestic violence, the organizations listed on our FL State and Local Programs page may be able to refer you to a lawyer or another organization that will be able to assist you.

* Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(1)(e)
** Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)(a)
*** Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(3)(e)

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back to topI want to relocate with my child and the other parent agrees. What do I do?

If the other parent agrees to the relocation, you can draw up a written, signed agreement with the other parent (and with anyone who has access to or a time-sharing schedule for the child) that:

  • allows the child to move with you;
  • lays out the access or time-sharing schedule for the non-relocating parent and anyone else entitled to access or time-sharing; and
  • describes, if necessary, any transportation arrangements related to the access or time-sharing.
Then, you can file this in court and ask that it be “ratified” (approved) by the judge without having a hearing on the issue.  Although, after you file it, the other parent has 10 days to request a hearing in writing.   If no request is made within 10 days, the order will be assumed to be in the child’s best interests and the judge will ratify it so that it becomes an enforceable court order.*

* Fla. Stat. § 61.13001(2)

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WomensLaw.org would like to thank Aliette Hernandez Carolan, Esq. for her help in reviewing this information.

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