Relocating Children from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria
Our offices have been inundated with calls asking about relocating children from the island. The most common scenario involves a parent that lives in the continental U.S. (We have received calls from: Chicago, New York, Boston, Phoenix to name a few places) and the other parent lives on the island with the child or children. What can we do to get them out of Puerto Rico? At this point the courts are closed. In legal terms this closure means that all judicial timelines and court deadlines are frozen. This time freeze affects orders, deadlines, filing periods and appeals. Please visit http://www.ramajudicial.pr d to see the latest information about court closures.
For relocation purposes, the first thing that can be done is talk to the other parent to see if they agree to move the child on a temporary basis. If they agree to a relocation, that makes things a bit more simple, because the process will not be as contentious and it can move freely. In some cases if both parents agree, they can sign a sworn notarized document incorporating their agreed terms, depending on the parents wishes and agreements, they can then file a motion for the temporary relocation in Puerto Rico and incorporate the agreement in the filed motion.
If the parents can’t come to an agreement, then a motion for relocation must be filed without the consent of the other parent, so it will be scheduled for a hearing at the courts earliest convenience after reopening. In order to succeed, the parent that is requesting relocation from Puerto Rico, must prove that there are emergency factors that are at play that are putting the minor child in danger and that temporary relocation is in the child’s best interest. It must be accompanied with a lot of evidence of the child’s current living condition and how they would change for the better in the new location. It is common for courts to request a home study to make sure that the child will be safe in the new location and it is a good environment to be in. This study is done by a social worker in the new state, and it can take a long time if it is requested via interagency procedures. In order to avoid this, the parent looking for relocation from Puerto Rico, could pay for a private home study by an independent agency, to expedite the process. The costs vary but they tend to be expensive. This accelerates the process greatly.
It is important to note that usually courts in Puerto Rico more time to see cases in Puerto Rico than in other states, given the volume of cases and the complexity of the Puerto Rico legal system, but now with the unprecedented natural disaster that is enveloping the island, cases will take even longer. So it is important to understand this and exercise restraint and patiences, everyone on the island is working as hard as they can to get back to operational status.
At the end of the process, the courts will either grant or deny the relocation. It is required to request relocation. If parents unilaterally remove children without the court’s consent, they run the risk of being sanctioned by the court, being cast in a bad light and possibly loose time with the child or children. That is why it is so important to go through the proper channels in order to secure a proper relocation from Puerto Rico. Even with parents that are in agreement with the relocation, should inform the court of the current status as soon as possible.
Our Puerto Rico lawyers are ready to assist you and answer your questions. Please call 1-800-541-4542 now for more information on how to start the process.