A recent family law decision rendered by the Fourth District Court of Appeals (in Florida) has helped to clarify a key point of contention in relocation hearings and trials involving minor children. The case explores the evidentiary burden of proof required under the Petition for Relocation Florida Statute. Jonathan Jacobs is a relocation attorney Orlando that helps clients relocate during or after a divorce or paternity action involving minor children. Call 407-335-8113 to speak with an attorney today.
This important decision referenced above is Solomon v. Solomon, 221 So.3d 652 (4th DCA, 2017), wherein the Court decided that “A court may not consider potential future, or even anticipated events as a substitute for evidence.” This means that if a Wife petitions the family law Court for relocation, the Court may not treat the husband’s promises of better conduct in the future as evidence to rebut wife’s evidence that it is in the best interest of the children to relocate to a different state. In Solomon, the husband did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it was in the children’s’ best interest to stay in Florida, specifically in the Palm Beach area.
In that case, the husband had mental health issues caused by substance abuse problems. These afflictions caused the family to lose its structural integrity and led to a host of hardships. The wife met her burden of proof by showing the Court by a preponderance of the evidence that the children’s best interest was served by moving to Virginia. The husband could not overcome the proof provided/shown to the court by the wife.
Florida Statute 61.13001: Petition for Relocation Florida Statute
Florida Statute 61.13001(8), the Petition for Relocation Florida Statute, governs the burden of proof for rulings on relocation and provides as follows: “The parent or other person wishing to relocate has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that relocation is in the best interest of the child. If that burden of proof is met, the burden shifts to the nonrelocating parent or other person to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child.” This burden of proof can be met in multiple ways, and there is no one showing of proof that applies to all family law cases. Remember, that Florida will likely retain jurisdiction over your case even if your relocation is granted.
In addition to the Petition for Relocation Florida Statute, in Solomon, the Court relied on a Florida Supreme Court case, Arthur v. Arthur, 54 So.3d 454 (Fla. 2010), wherein the Supreme Court of Florida rejected a “prospective based” analysis concerning petitions for relocation, stating: Indeed, a trial court is not equipped with a “crystal ball” that enables it to prophetically determine whether future relocation is in the best interests of a child.” Essentially, a family law litigant opposing relocation must rely on past conduct/behavior, and may not present prospective good intentions and expectations of better relations to the Court as evidence to rebut a petition for relocation. The Coronavirus may impact the court’s willingness to grant a petition for relocation with minor children.