Relocating with Children from Puerto Rico
Since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, our offices have been inundated with calls asking about relocating children from the island. (We have received calls from: Orlando, Miami, Chicago, New York, Boston, Phoenix to name a few). The most common cases involve a parent who has custody in Puerto Rico and wants to move to another location in the continental U.S. with his/her kids, or a parent who doesn’t want the children to move.
For relocation purposes, the first thing that can be done is talk to the other parent to see if he or she agrees to move the child. If the person agrees to a relocation, that makes things a bit simpler, because the process will not be as contentious and it can move quickly. In some cases if both parents agree, they can sign a sworn notarized document incorporating their agreed terms, and depending on the parent’s wishes and agreements, they can then file a joint motion for relocation in a court in Puerto Rico and incorporate the agreement in the filed motion. It is important to note the following: If at any time, the parties have been in court to determine child custody or visitation, or as it’s known in Puerto Rico, “custodia física o legal y relaciones paterno filiales,” the relocating parent must file for leave or permission from a court, to relocate and leave the island with the children. Many people think with the other parent’s permission they can freely relocate. That is not the truth. The relocating parent must get permission from the court or risk alienating the court and being subject to a contempt proceeding for failing to secure the court’s permission.
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. In order to succeed, the parent requesting relocation from Puerto Rico, must prove that there are emergency factors at play that are putting the minor child in danger and that temporary relocation is in the child’s best interest. The motion must be accompanied with a lot of evidence of the child’s current living conditions 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 that it is a good environment for the child. 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 and they tend to be expensive. However, the private home study accelerates the process greatly.
It is important to note that usually courts in Puerto Rico take longer than in other states given the volume of cases and the complexity of the Puerto Rico legal system, but now with so many cases on the docket after the hurricane it can take even longer. So it is important to understand and exercise restraint and patience.
At the end of the process, the courts will either grant or deny the relocation. Remember that it is required to request the relocation. If parents unilaterally remove the 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. As stated above, even in the case of parents who are in agreement with the relocation, the court should be informed of the current status as soon as possible.
Our Puerto Rico child custody lawyers are ready to assist you and answer your questions. Please make a consultation by calling 1-800-541-4542 now for more information on how to start the process.