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Family Law

FAMILY LAW IN CANBERRA – Recent issues in child relocation – by Cristina Huesch, Director Alliance Family Law

By April 23, 2014No Comments

Parents wishing to move interstate with their children, or those seeking to prevent an ex-partner from moving, will no doubt find recent cases involving relocation interesting.

Decisions in relocation cases are made using the same criteria as for other parenting orders, namely, what is in the best interests of the child. So, as usual, consideration is given to general factors like the nature of the family relationships; the past and present behaviours of the parents and their attitudes towards the child; any issues of abuse; the particular characteristics of the child (and parents), such as maturity and cultural background, and other criteria.

As well as the standard criteria for determining “the best interests of the child”, there are those more specific to relocation cases, such as the practical difficulties and expenses, and the likely effects on the child of the move. The views expressed by the child about the proposed relocation are also taken into account (depending on things like the level of maturity and understanding).

Interestingly, recent cases show the weight also placed on the psychological and social needs of the parent in determining the best interests of the child. In January, a mother was allowed to relocate interstate on the basis that the judge was satisfied that “it is in the best interests of [the children] that their mother be permitted to move on with her life and pursue her [new] relationship…so that she, like the husband, is able to have the opportunity to have a loving adult relationship and provide a loving home for the children”.

Likewise, last month a mother was permitted to relocate interstate because the court placed “significant weight on the emotional health of the mother as primary parent…. and that she has a real need for a close family support network in her parenting of the child”.

And last November, the courts allowed a father to relocate his daughter interstate. In this case, certain characteristics of the relationship between the child and her mother were given more weight. Namely, the daughter’s relationship with the mother, who had mental health and alcohol abuse issues, was regarded as having been “fractured”. Consequently the child had lived with her father for some years and was now embedded in the new blended family. The twelve-year old child’s “clear view” in wishing to move interstate with the father was also taken into account.

In a case in September, however, such emphasis given to a child’s “clear views” led to a parent being forbidden from moving her two children interstate. Here, the children were also regarded as embedded in their lives. But it was the mother’s apparent lack of effective planning that proved the deciding factor in the courts ruling against the move.

And just in case you are entertaining the idea of moving away without the prior agreement of the non-custodial parent, you might like to consider a case last November involving a “clandestine relocation”, in which a mother secretly moved her child interstate. Although she had gone to some effort to maintain changeovers as set out in parenting orders, she was issued coercive orders to return. The fact that the mother’s parents were in on it (and helping financially) was also held against her, which can serve as a warning against involving extended family in any such plan.

So are you are a parent who is thinking of relocating? Or perhaps you are a parent who wishes to oppose an ex’s proposed relocation? Either way, please contact Cristina Huesch here at Alliance Family Law (CONTACT)to discuss your own circumstances and how we can help you get the best outcome.

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