Relocation of Children and the Importance of Planning
The breakdown of a relationship can take its toll on more than just the couple who are separating – when children are involved it can affect them equally and sometimes even more so. Therefore, if you are planning a move as a result of a separation, it is important that you consider not just your needs but also the needs of your children before relocating. You will either need the consent of the other parent or an order of the Federal Circuit Court or the Family Court to move.
Some of the most important factors to consider include:
- Whether or not your children can continue to attend the same school and, if they cannot, which school will they attend?
- Will the relocation affect your job prospects or current employment in terms of transit time or transport accessibility?
- Will the relocation mean separating yourself and your children from your existing support system, such as your parents/their grandparents or aunts and uncles?
- Is the children’s other parent also relocating and, if not, will their move place significant distance between them and the children?
The best way to deal with these factors is to develop a plan with your former partner about the arrangements for them spending time and communicating with the children after your move and who will pay the travel costs. If you are not in a position to reach an amicable arrangement, a family lawyer can assist you with preparing a proposal if you are having trouble doing so.
The plan or proposal should establish parameters around:
- how much time can be spent with each parent and when (for example, are you going to live close enough for it to be every second weekend or if the distance is further, will it be one week each school holidays during the year and a block period of half of the Christmas holidays);
- where the visits will take place (for example, are the children permitted to go on overseas, interstate, or intrastate holidays with the other parent or will the time occur just at the other parent’s home);
- how other communication will take place (social media, WhatsApp, FaceTime/Skype) and how often (eg once or three times a week); and
- how long the plan or proposal is expected to be in place for (will you review it in five years).
Once the proposal is put into writing, it is important to have your agreement made binding. The reason why it is crucial for the agreement to be binding is because a change of circumstances, such as your former partner deciding to renege (go back on) their approval of you relocating with the children, might mean that they start Court Proceedings. The Court will look at what is in the best interests of the children and ensuring the children keep a meaningful relationship with both parents such that Orders might be made for the children to move back to your previous location. By having the initial agreement made binding by way of Consent Orders, it becomes a lot harder for your former partner to change their mind. Doing so would mean that they would need to persuade the Court to discharge the Orders as they stand and have them replaced with new ones.
How we can help
A family lawyer can help you with the process of negotiating and preparing Consent Orders such that they are sealed by the Court before you relocate. If you are unable to reach an agreement with the other party, you may need to attend a Mediation to help you establish the terms of the agreement before any party files a Court Application. It is therefore in the best interests of both parties to try to reach a parenting agreement themselves before the Court become involved.
If you are of the understanding that your former partner is attempting to relocate with your children but they have not attempted to put an agreement in place, it is important that you seek advice from a family lawyer as soon as possible. You may even need to commence proceedings in a swift manner to ensure that the other parent cannot relocate with the children without your consent or a Court Order.
For assistance preparing a parenting agreement regarding the relocation of the children’s home and advice on how it may affect your children’s lives, get in contact with one of our family lawyers in Cairns today.