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Friday, 8 April 2016

Won’t somebody please think of the children? – issues to consider when wanting to relocate interstate

Parenting with a separated former partner can have its challenges, and one of the most polarising can be the decision of one parent to relocate across the country.

The guiding principle in this area of the family law is the best interests of a child, with the two competing primary considerations being the benefit to a child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents, and the need to protect a child from risk of harm in a variety of forms. The second consideration is ‘weighted’ more heavily than the first. There are a number of secondary considerations in the Family Law Act 1975 that are also taken into account.

From a practical standpoint, what this means is that there must be a compelling reason that a move would not benefit solely or simply a parent, but more importantly the child. Very clear consideration must be given to how, in the event of a move, a relationship with the other parent is maintained.

Reasons for a move might include greater cultural and educational opportunities, specialised services being available in the new region not available in the previous region, better family and emotional support for a child being in one region or another, or a parent being able to obtain much more fruitful employment in a new region, meaning that their child has a better chance at a greater quality of life.

Incidences of family violence and isolation for a parent in one region can also play a significant role in a proposed move. There may be very good reasons not to move as well, including cultural ties that would not be available in a new region, the loss of Indigenous connection to country should a move occur, and estrangement from a parent.

It is important if considering such a move that there be very clear communication with the other parent involved, and that intentions and reasoning are clearly set out for discussing.

You may not find that a parent confronted with such a proposal necessarily acts rationally or calmly at first, but it is important that a solid foundation and clear communication is established early on.

Every situation is different of course and you should obtain expert advice specific to your circumstances. The guide in this article is at a general level and should not be taken as legal advice for your specific circumstances. We are available to discuss these issues with parents considering making, or responding to someone proposing, such a move, at any time on 03 9614 7111, or by email at Melbourne@nevettford.com.au

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