Following a separation, where there are children involved, it helps if both parents live fairly close to each other, so that they can both maintain contact and communication with their children and transport is not too much of a problem.
But what happens to the arrangement when one parent wants to move a considerable distance away from the locality of the other?
A parent may have very good reasons for wanting to move. They may be seeking family support from other members of the family, or seeking better employment, or to pursue a new relationship, or in some cases to escape a violent or abusive situation.
If one parent moves away, the other parent may feel betrayed and angry, believing that their children’s welfare is being undermined by a move for no good reason. The aggrieved parent may argue that regular contact is being prevented, that the children will have to travel longer distances, at greater expense and inconvenience, and that the moving parent should change their mind and stay where they are and not move. In most cases, it’s the mother who wants to move and the father who wants to block the move.
So what to do? There is often no easy answer. One solution can be for the other parent to relocate as well, so as to be close to the children, though this may not be practical.
Aggrieved parents can take the matter to the Family Court, though it is often a long and expensive process and best avoided if possible. In some cases – a small majority – the relocating parents succeed and are allowed by the Court to move. In other cases parents may be ordered to stay where they are, particularly where they are seeking to interrupt an existing shared care arrangement.
The Court always tries to do what is in the best interests of the children. The relocating parent’s reasons for moving are only one factor to be taken into account.
Parents definitely should not simply take matters into their own hands and move without seeking the other parent’s consent or the Courts’ permission. The Family Court can make urgent interim orders for a parent who has moved interstate or a distance away to return, pending a formal hearing. Those parents who take children overseas will find that countries who are signatories to the Hague Convention (which is most countries), will cooperate in sending parents straight back home.
Parents should think carefully before moving away or seeking to oppose a move by the other parent. They need to consider what’s best for the children. All good parenting involves a degree of self-sacrifice; sometimes this may require staying longer in the home locality than they would otherwise have wished. Sometimes it may involve understanding and accommodating other parent’s need to move away and to reestablish their lives following a separation. Getting good legal advice at an early stage can assist in coming to a satisfactory resolution.