Parenting after a separation: Relocating with children

What you need to know about Family Law in Australia and relocating with children

Separating and co-parenting is something that couples across Australia do every day. This article addresses a common concern about when — if ever — it is appropriate to move to a new city, a new state, or even overseas with your children.

We are going to cover what you need to do legally, as well as what you need to consider when discussing relocation. Australian family law has an abiding principle that any decisions about parenting must be made with the best interests of the child at heart.

What this means is that any decision to relocate can only be made if it is done in the best interests of your children. A new job in a new town may not be a suitable move, so it is important to remember this at every stage, especially if it:

  • Causes significant upheaval for your children
  • Contributes to loss of support networks
  • Has an adverse impact on a child’s relationship with the other parent

That said, it is not impossible to relocate with the right advice, so read on to find out about what you should consider.

Book your no obligation free discussion with our family lawyers in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane for qualified expertise in all areas of family law, including relocation following divorce and separation.

Relocating with your child after divorce and separation

father and son getting readyRelocating with children after divorce and separation is one of the most contentious elements of family law. There are so many different aspects of law to consider, and each party and the children are entitled to certain rights and responsibilities, whether they have settled their dispute via mediation or in court.

  • You may be able to reach an agreement about moving to a new location with the other parent of your children, but in many cases the other parent will oppose it.
  • The decision to relocate usually becomes an issue when one parent opposes the move and seeks to stop the other parent from moving away with the children.

If you have tried to speak to your former spouse about moving and they have opposed your ideas, or if you know that your former spouse is considering relocating with your children, it is essential that you seek legal advice.

The complexities of relocation and travel for children after divorce and separation

When you separate from your partner you still need to be able to earn a living and go on with your life. You will share parenting responsibilities, but you ultimately need to pursue meaningful opportunities for yourself.

Your opportunities may be limited in your current location, or you may wish to move interstate or to a new city to be closer to support networks or better job options. Whatever your motivation for seeking to relocate, there are factors to consider around the impact that moving can have on your children.

  • There are significant psychological factors to consider about relocation after divorce and separation, not least of all the potential for the development of mental health problems and complex developmental issues.
  • Divorce is difficult on children, but the critical time after divorce and separation takes place requires the establishment of a routine and continued and ongoing support and care from both parents.

Again, the importance of acting in the best interests of children in relocation (s 60CC Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)) is paramount. A family lawyer can help you to mediate a decision about relocation and may help you to reach an agreement without having to seek a relocation order through the courts.

The court can intervene and make a relocation order

Contract signingIf you are looking to move, and you have made this decision considering what is in the best interests of your children — but your former partner is still refusing to agree — then the court may intervene. Alternatively, if your partner is looking to move and you oppose it, you should seek legal advice immediately.

  • A relocation order can be made in which the court will dictate conditions of relocation, including when and where a parent can move and how often the other parent can visit.
  • Court-mandated relocation orders are not always agreed to  so it is vital that you seek legal advice if there is a disagreement about relocation with your former partner.

A court can and will make orders pertaining to how much child support will be paid by the parent not responsible for primary care, as well as visitation rights and responsibilities for each party.

Case example

Dana met Hector online in Brisbane, and after a brief courtship Dana fell pregnant. Neither party wanted to pursue a relationship, but despite this Dana and Hector have stayed friends and co-parent their daughter, Lily, together. Lily lives with Dana but Hector is very involved in Lily’s life and sees her every alternate weekend and on holidays full-time for four weeks of the year. This is an informal agreement. 

A couple of months ago, Dana met a man who lives in Sydney and is looking to move interstate to be closer to him. They are talking about getting married. Hector is devastated as he wants to be part of his daughter’s life, but Dana says that as the primary caretaker of Lily, she can do what she wants. 

Hector gets legal advice and finds out that Dana cannot move interstate without his permission. He meets with Dana for mediation organised through his lawyer, and via this process he finds out that Dana’s new partner is willing to move to Brisbane to be with her. The matter is resolved amicably without having to go through the court system. 

Relocation with children following divorce

If you are looking to move, the best (and first) thing you should do is speak to the other parent of your children. While they may be completely opposed to the idea at first, you may find that over time you can reach a compromise.

This may come in the form of increased visitation, or longer visits during the year. Your former spouse may even be open to moving to where you are looking to relocate.

If you cannot reach a decision the next step should be to seek legal advice and attend a dispute resolution session. If you do reach an agreement here, you should formalise it by making a parenting plan, or by applying to the family court for a consent order.

At Australian Family Lawyers, we are committed to keeping matters out of the courts wherever possible and managing family disputes with respect and care for all parties. Find out more about how we can help with relocation mediation.

If you need advice on relocation orders, or if your former partner is looking to move your children away, contact us today. We can discuss your position in a free consultation; and there is no obligation to proceed with us after this free session.

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