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I live in north Florida, and am looking to relocate to Atlanta

with my 10 yr old...
I live in north Florida, and am looking to relocate to Atlanta with my 10 yr old son. His father and I were never married. We have had a child support order for the past 5 years, but he doesn't pay and is currently 25k in arrears. I'm married and have been for the past 5 years, and have a daughter with my husband. My son has always lived with me, and supported 100% by myself and my husband. My husband and I both have job offers in Atlanta, and mine alone is a 20k raise. Its definitely in our best interest as a family to relocate. My concern is my son's father filing a court order and forcing me back to Florida in some way. We don't have any court ordered visitation or custody, but he does see him usually every other weekend, but misses at least 30% of those visits. He's unemployed, and doesn't have a home of his own. Do I have anything to worry about?
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Answered in 1 minute by:
8/16/2013
LADY LAWYER
LADY LAWYER, Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 6,536
Experience: Family Law Attorney
Verified

LADY LAWYER : Hello, Thanks for choosing Justanswer.com! I look forward to helping you today. Please give me a moment to review your question and to answer you.
LADY LAWYER : If there is no court order in the way of custody, you, as the mother, are considered to have legal custody and you may move to Atlanta at your leisure. However, yes, your ex can file for custody and try to get your son brought back to FL but ONLY if he does so within 6 months of you leaving.
LADY LAWYER : Once six months has passed, you will be considered a resident of GA and FL will have no more jurisdiction over you.
Customer:

I'm sure he probably will. Would I basically have to "lose" custody, for my son to be made to come back to FL?

LADY LAWYER : What county do you currently reside in and does your ex live in the same county?
Customer:

Yes, Alachua County

LADY LAWYER : Okay. Your ex would have to file a Petition for Custody in Alachua and that isn't cheap. It can cost upwards of $400 so not sure he has the money for that if he isn't working. But if he does file the petition, you will have a hearing (may be able to do it telephonically from GA). You will simply present your side and evidence as to why you and your son should be allowed to live in GA and your ex will present his. The judge cannot make you come back to FL, but he can make your son come back. You would not lose custody if you decided to move back to FL with your son.
Customer:

Would his inability to pay child support have any impact on the custody determination?

LADY LAWYER : Generally, if you have already moved and based on what you told me about your ex missing the custody visits and being so far behind on child support, the judge should rule in your favor.
LADY LAWYER : Yes.
Customer:

And would I have the burden to prove its in his best interest to be in GA? Or would he have the burden to prove it's not?

LADY LAWYER : And not only that, but if he files a petition for custody, you should file a motion for contempt against him because he is so far behind on his child support. He can be jailed for this.
LADY LAWYER : Here is the full statute on parental relocation: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0000-0099/0061/Sections/0061.13001.html
LADY LAWYER : Of course, since there is no custody order in place, you are not required to give him notice of your move.
Customer:

He's been to court for contempt 4 times in the past 5 years. But each time he pays a couple hundred dollars to the DOR reps there, and he doesn't face the contempt issue.

LADY LAWYER : With regard to the contempt, did you file the motion through the court or was it through the DOR?
LADY LAWYER : 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.
Customer:

it was DOR, through the Child Support Enforcement Program

LADY LAWYER : Okay. That is why.
Customer:

okay, that makes sense. With our increase in salary, job opportunities, etc, and my offering a reasonable visitation schedule (ie time over the summer, holidays, spring break etc) I would think my burden would be met

LADY LAWYER : You need to file it through the court. The judge will be a lot less lienent.
Customer:

well that can definitely be my ammo then

LADY LAWYER : Yes, a job change usually will meet the burden.
LADY LAWYER : right. Something you can hang over his head. At the very least, his license should be suspended.
Customer:

I considered dropping the child support to get him to do a written agreement to the relo. But I wanted to see if that's too generous and unnecessary

LADY LAWYER : Don't do that. Now, if he completely wants to give up his parental rights, that may be worth considering.
Customer:

his license gets suspended every 6 months like clockwork. Then after a few months or so, he'll come up with a couple hundred bucks to get it back. He's definitely learned how to work the system. At least how to work DOR

LADY LAWYER : Yes, the DOR let's people get away with a lot. The judge can suspend it until he gets the support he owes below $2,500.
LADY LAWYER : He won't be able to pay off just a few hundred to get it back.
Customer:

So should I just notify him i'm moving, and propose a visitation schedule? And then if he disagrees, just move and take my chances with the court/custody determination?

Customer:

I considered giving him one weekend a month and then time over the summer, holidays etc.

LADY LAWYER : I wouldn't even tell him you're moving. Just move and keep rescheduling your son's visits with him for as long as you can. When you near the 6 month mark in GA, you should be pretty home-free. He would have to get an attorney to know he has 6 months from the time you move to file a petition. So the odds are in your favor.
Customer:

The new job would like me to start in 3 weeks, so I dont know if I should say something now or right before I leave. Also, the 6 month time frame, how do they know when that starts?

LADY LAWYER : I guess he could always use Justanswer though :)
LADY LAWYER : I am assuming you are renting a place up there? It can be anything from a water bill to a new driver's license.
Customer:

Haha, that's true

LADY LAWYER : I would not give him any forewarning.
Customer:

We own a home in FL, but we're going to rent it and then rent in GA for a yr, until we can use our FL home's rental income on a new mortgage

LADY LAWYER : Okay.
Customer:

Do you think a judge would look unfavorably upon my leaving without telling him?

LADY LAWYER : No, because there is no custody agreement in place saying you have to.
Customer:

I just wouldn't want them to have a negative view of me, like I moved and didn't consider his rights to visit etc. Maybe i'm more paranoid than need-be :)

Customer:

I really appreciate all your help!!

LADY LAWYER : No problem!
Customer:

One more question, if I moved without telling him, and then he did get an atty (his parents have tons of money and would bankroll it in a heart beat), would the atty use that in court against me? Even though I legally could do it. I just wonder if they would use that to show I wasn't facilitating/supporting his relationship with my son etc and just leaving under the cover of darkness

LADY LAWYER : Anything is possible and yes, if I were opposing counsel, I would do that. But you have to weigh what he might do if you tell him sooner against what he might do if you tell him later. The later you tell him, the better chance you have for already being a GA resident and FL not having jurisdiction to make you do anything.
LADY LAWYER : If you tell him sooner and he goes to court, I can promise you that you are not going to get bonus points from the judge for letting your ex know ahead of time.
LADY LAWYER : Might it look a little bad if you go to court and never said anything about moving? Yes, but that is not going to be a determining factor in what is in the best interest of the child.
LADY LAWYER : and that is what the judge is bound to make his ruling by
Customer:

So telling him before and offering him a revised vistation schedule wouldn't matter in the end?

Customer:

So basically the judge might not like what I did, but he still might know the move still served my son's best interests? That's promising

LADY LAWYER : No.
Customer:

Okay, thanks again for all your help! I feel a lot better. I guess i'll be a ball of nerves for 6 months!! :)

Customer:

if he did accept some visits after I move to GA, would that affect anything?

Customer:

like implying any kind of agreement?

LADY LAWYER : Correct. And he has to determine if it is in your son's best interest to stay in GA. So what you did or didn't do as far as the father is concerned, really isn't a factor.
LADY LAWYER : No. He could technically still file for custody even if he agrees to visits or some other sort of arrangement.
Customer:

Okay, thanks again!!! Have a good night

LADY LAWYER : And you as well! It has been my pleasure! I hope I have provided you with excellent service tonight and that your rating will reflect that. Thanks!
LADY LAWYER : If there is anything else I can do for you, please just let me know.
Customer:

I definitely will, thank you

LADY LAWYER
LADY LAWYER, Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 6,536
Experience: Family Law Attorney
Verified
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LADY LAWYER
LADY LAWYER, Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 6,536
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