It is not uncommon for people to consult a family lawyer about what happens following the breakdown of a relationship (separation or divorce), where one parent wants to relocate with a child to another location.
Some reasons for relocation are that one parent:
- Wants to return to the place they are originally from to be closer to family and friends;
- Wants to progress their career and provide a better life for themselves and the child; or
- Has entered a new relationship with a person who plans to move to or already lives in the new location.
A parent wanting to relocate, cannot simply pack up and take the child with them. The first step should be to speak to the child’s other parent and see if there is any way they will consent to the relocation.
The non-relocating parent may be more likely to consent, if they are offered more flexible time or longer periods of time with the child, particularly during school holidays.
If the parents are having difficulty reaching an agreement, one option would be to attend ‘Family Dispute Resolution’. Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners have experience in dealing which such scenarios and may be able to offer solutions the parents have not considered.
If the parents cannot reach an agreement, the only option left for the proposed relocating parent, is to make an application to the Family Court. Factors which the Court will weigh up when reaching a decision include but are not limited to:
- The distance and accessibility of the new location in terms of both logistics and cost;
- Whether the new location is within Australia or overseas;
- The age of the child and quality of the relationship with the non-relocating parent and whether they can maintain a meaningful relationship if relocation orders are made;
- The financial resources of the parents to facilitate consistent travel of the child, to visit the non-relocating parent;
- The availability of accommodation that will provide the child suitable living conditions in either location. This may be influenced by a parent’s ability to obtain employment in either location and the flexibility of their working hours;
- The effect the orders may have on a parent, particularly the main caregiver’s ability to function as a parent, particularly if they will suffer considerable anxiety and/or depression if relocation orders are not made; and
- Whether it is an option for the other parent to also relocate to be closer to the child.
In making its determination, the Court will be bound by the overarching principle that whatever orders it makes, must be in the best interests of the child.