Florida Statute §61.13001 (Parental Relocation with a child) is not just for parents who are relocating voluntarily. The Fourth District Court of Appeal recently found that Florida Statute §61.13001 does not include language in favor of a request to relocate with the child merely because the parent’s relocation was involuntary, let alone language suggesting the sections are inapplicable.
In the case of Joseph Castleman v. Jeann Bicaldo, 248 So. 3d 1181 (Fla. 4th DCA, 2018), the Wife immigrated to the United States from the Philippines to marry her Husband. The trial court initially decided that if her application for citizenship was denied, she would be permitted to take the child with her to the Philippines. The trial court reasoned that Florida Statute §61.13001 did not apply to persons forced to relocate due to deportation. The Wife’s application for citizenship could take anywhere from twelve to eighteen months to be processed.
On appeal, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal found that the trial court made an error when it make a prospective finding (prospective-based analysis) that it would be in the child’s best interests to move to the Philippines on some future, uncertain date. The Fourth District found that a present-based analysis would better address the parties’ situation. The Fourth District stated that the trial court had to consider the factors of Florida Statute §61.13001, which included the financial stability of a parent and the suitability of the new location for the child. The Fourth District reasoned that since the financial stability and suitability could change by the time the Wife’s citizenship was decided, the trial court should not have attempted to predict the future. The Fourth District confirmed that the proper review of a petition for relocation must include a best interests of the child determination at the time of the final hearing. This is a present-based analysis.
The Fourth District made their decision without prejudice. This means that the trial court would be able to modify the Final Judgment as to relocation once the Wife had an involuntary relocation pending due to possible deportation. If the Wife learned later that her citizenship application was denied, and she had good cause to believe she would be deported, she could file a petition to relocate with her daughter at that time under Florida Statute §61.13001.