My bags are packed, I’m ready to go. Should I stay or can I go?
Often separated parents find themselves in a situation where one of them wants to move to another city, state or even country after they separate. This is what’s called relocation in family law.
Parents often enter into parenting orders after they separate. All is going well for a time and then the parent, with whom the child lives, decides that they would like to move interstate and they want to take the child with them.
The move will, because of the distance, make it more difficult for the other parent to spend time with, and be a part of their child’s life. The parent who wants to move should not just pack up and go they need to discuss it with the other parent first.
What should you do first?
You should approach the other parent with a proposal of how they will be able to spend time with their child despite the distance. You can, for example, offer the other parent longer blocks of time over holidays with the child, offer to cover the child’s costs of visiting them and the like.
If we reach agreement what should we do?
You should either enter into a parenting plan or new Orders before you move.
What if we cannot reach agreement?
If you cannot agree on new arrangements the only alternative is to approach a court for permission to go. If you are the parent staying behind you can approach the court for an order to stop the other parent relocating with the children. You need to act quickly in such a case to try avoid them moving.
How will the court decide?
The court is always going to look at what is in the best interests of the child before agreeing to the parent moving. The court will not always grant permission. They will weigh up the competing proposals of mum and dad and see which one is in the child’s best interests.
In a recent case the mother wanted to move interstate to Victoria with her 6 ½ year old daughter to care for her mother who was terminally ill. In that case the court allowed the mother to move after considering:
- The effect on the mother if she was not allowed to move;
- The ability of the child to maintain a relationship with both her father and her paternal grandmother even if she moved;
- The desirability of the child developing a closer relationship with her maternal grandmother (she already enjoyed a close relationship with her paternal grandmother);
- That the mother had a job lined up in Victoria and no employment in Sydney;
- The mother’s need to have emotional support from her family in Victoria given the feelings of loneliness and isolation she experienced in Sydney;
- The father’s concern about a permanent relocation, the fact that he could not move to Victoria and that he would not see his child every alternate weekend but rather mainly blocks of time in the holidays and
- The court found that the 6 ½ year old would be able to maintain a close relationship with her father even if she only saw him for extended times over school holidays. Considering all the issues the court found that it was in the child’s best interests to live with her mother and that they would be able to relocate.
You should obtain legal advice before you pack your bags.