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Divorce is challenging in numerous ways, before, during and also after proceedings, often for much longer than either party ever really expects. Though you may have agreed on custody and child-rearing arrangements, it’s always an ongoing process of determining how to raise children, one where both parents are usually equally invested.

Sometimes, however, the difficult situation arises where one parent may need to move for work, wants to relocate after a new marriage, or simply wishes to return to their home country… and wants a child or children from the former marriage to come with them. Whether you are looking to relocate your child or suspect that your ex-partner is going to, there are a few things you should know ahead of time.

Planning to relocate

If you are interested in relocating yourself and your children, your legal representative needs to contact your ex-partner’s lawyer to inform them of your intention to relocate. You are then providing them notice of your objective. While you are not seeking their permission, they do have the ability to object to the relocation which might require you to file an Application to Relocate.

Ex-partner intending to relocate

If your ex-partner is the one intending to relocate your children, they must provide you with notice. You should then object to the notice in writing and save a copy of the letter to document your objection. If the relocation has already happened, in spite of your clearly documented objection, the court may be able to order the return of your child. This is why it is important to both send your objection in writing and save yourself a copy of the letter.

Three categories of parenting arrangements

Different parenting arrangements may imply a different level of formality in your custody and relocation determinations. The hope is that parents can come to an agreeable arrangement on their own or through mediation and counseling. However, those who cannot agree may turn to the courts for a decision. Most parenting arrangement falls into one of the following three categories:

1.The Sensible Handshake:The most informal of arrangements, where parents are able to agree to parenting arrangements despite a lack of formal documentation.

2.A Parenting Plan: A non-enforceable document usually arising out of counseling or therapy that describes what parents have agreed to regarding parenting arrangements for their children in the event of a divorce.

3.Court Orders: The most formal of parenting arrangements, these are court-ordered and are for those parents who are unable to reach an agreement and thus require an enforceable parenting agreement arranged by the court.

The most important thing to remember

Despite what many parents may think or hope, issues of custody, childcare, and relocation are not about parental rights at all, but about what’s in the actual best interests of the child, notwithstanding what the parent/s may think that best interest is.

When deciding whether a relocation is in the child’s best interests, the court will look at how the relocation will affect their ability to have a meaningful relationship with the non-relocating parent. The existing relationships between the child and both parents will also bear upon the decision of the court, with greater weight being allocated when a parent is particularly hands-on with their child.

Generally, the age of the child/children will have an impact on the court’s decision. Usually the younger the child in question, the less likely relocation will be considered appropriate.

Likewise, the court will consider the impact of the move on the child’s social network which may include peers, school, extracurricular activities, and extended family.

One thing to remember is that distance and location is not heavily reviewed, with even short-range relocations being enough to trigger review by the court.

If you are either considering relocation of a child after a divorce, or your ex-partner informs you they are pursuing this course, it is essential to seek good professional advice and work out a strategy to best manage an outcome for all parties involved, most particularly the child.