Following separation, the child (or children) will commonly live at both parents separate residences. There are instances, however, when one parent may decide to relocate permanently to a significant distance from the other parent (including interstate or even international).  

There are several things to consider if you are planning to relocate residence with the children.

Court Orders

If there are Court Orders in place regarding the issue of relocation, it is very important to strictly follow these Court Orders (even if you don’t agree with them).

Reaching an agreement

If there are no Court Orders in place, then you should try to reach an agreement with the other parent about the issue of relocation. However, reaching an agreement may be a difficult task, given that the relocation will always impact on the time the child spends with the non-relocating parent.

One option is to agree to the relocation, provided that the child will spend ‘make up time’ with the non-relocating parent during school holidays, or other special occasions. Alternatively, the other parent may choose to relocate as well, so that the existing parenting arrangements can be maintained, notwithstanding the relocation. Of course, this may not be reasonable, or even possible, for the other parent (due to work or other commitments).

Another alternative is to attend Family Dispute Resolution to try to reach an agreement on the issue of relocation. For example, attending with a mediator may help to facilitate some form of compromise so that appropriate parenting arrangements can be made to support the relocation.

In the event that you and the other parent are able to agree to the relocation, you should always seek to formalise this agreement (by way of Consent Orders made to the Court). This will help minimise any future disagreement regarding the relocation.

What if we can’t agree on the relocation?

If you and the other parent cannot reach an agreement on the relocation, you can make an urgent application to the Court to make parenting orders on this issue. The Court can hear the case and decide whether the relocation is in the best interests of the child.  

Can I stop my child relocating?

If you are seeking to prevent the other parent from relocating, you can seek that the Court make an order prohibiting the other party from relocating the child’s residence outside of a certain area (or kilometre range). Prior to making any Orders, the Court will consider various factors.

What does the Court consider?

The primary consideration for the Court is the best interests of the children. This means that the Court must consider whether the child is able to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, and whether there is a need to protect the child from harm (or family violence).

If the Court decides that the relocation is in the best interests of the child, they will make orders supporting the relocation. By contrast, if the relocation will unfairly impact on the time the child spends with the non-relocating parent, the Court can make orders prohibiting the relocation.  

The parent who has decided to relocate must demonstrate to the Court compelling reasons to support the move. For example, the parent may have obtained gainful employment in the new location, which would better support the needs of the children. The new location may also have a particular school which suits the specific needs of the child. The parent would also need to demonstrate that the relocation would not be detrimental to the time the child (or children) spends with the other parent.

The Court will also take into consideration whether the parents have discussed the issue of relocation. If one parent has relocated without the knowledge or consent of the other parent, the Court is able to make orders requiring the other parent return with the child (or children) until the Court has heard further evidence on the matter.

Other matters the Court will consider include the area in which the other parent will be relocating, the costs of relocating, and how the children will be able to spend time with the other parent.

Relocating overseas

The Court will take into consideration the factors outlined above, when determining the issue of an overseas or international relocation. As is the case with all parenting matters, the Court will decide whether the international relocation is in the best interests of the children.

If the other parent has relocated to another country, without your consent or the authority of the Court, you may be able to seek assistance under the Hague Convention. This is an international agreement which covers the issue of international parental child abduction.

Watch our free on-demand webinar on parenting arrangements

If you want to learn more about parenting arrangements with your ex-partner following separation, watch our new, free on-demand webinar "Agreeing on Parenting Arrangements" which explains how to agree on child-focused parenting arrangements with your ex-partner.