Thursday, January 14, 2010

Decision Relating To Parental Relocation Of Child Entails A Best Interest Determination At Time Of Hearing - Florida Supreme Court

In Arthur v. Arthur (SC08-1675), the Florida Supreme Court quahsed a decision of the Second District relating to parental relocation of a child and section 61.13001, Florida Statutes (2006). 
Upon review of the Husband's arguments and the well-reasoned analyses in the First District's opinions in Martinez, Janousek, and Sylvester, we conclude that a best interests determination in petitions for relocation must be made at the time of the final hearing and must be supported by competent, substantial evidence. In this case, the trial court authorized the relocation based in part on its conclusion that relocation would be in the best interests of the child twenty months from the date of the hearing. Such a “prospective-based” analysis is unsound. 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. Any one of the various factors outlined in section 61.13001(7) that the trial court is required to consider, such as the financial stability of a parent or the suitability of the new location for the child, could change within the extended time period given by the court before relocation. Because trial courts are unable to predict whether a change in any of the statutory factors will occur, the proper review of a petition for relocation entails a best interests determination at the time of the final hearing, i.e. a “present-based” analysis.
*Disclaimer: GrayRobinson, P.A. was involved in this action.


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