Parent and Child Relocation Related to Job Postings – What Can Happen
Child relocation cases are difficult and almost always focus on the applicant parent wanting to move with the child to a specific location. So when the court orders that an applicant parent can move ‘wherever their defence force job may send them’ it is important to stop and take notice.
The court recently made broad parenting orders that allowed the mother to relocate with the child (aged 3 years at the time) wherever the Australian Defence Force required her to relocate.
At the time of making the orders, there was no information as to where the relocation may be, when it would happen or how long the posting was for.
The father appealed the making of the order, and the Full Court considered the circumstances surrounding the decision.
- The parents had lived in the same town in Queensland for their entire relationship, and the child had only lived in that town;
- The mother had enjoyed a career with the ADF for 18 years;
- There was evidence that, if the mother refused an ADF posting, she would lose her position in the ADF, or would need to take up a different role, on a lower income;
- Following separation the child lived with the mother and spent 4 afternoons a week with the father, as well as 3 overnights a fortnight.
- The father worked full time.
- One year before the final hearing the mother became aware that she would be posted to another town, after an interim hearing the judge refused the mothers request. The posting ultimately did not proceed.
- The report writer said that without knowing the final destination he could not support the mothers request for a relocation.
- At the final hearing the trial judge allowed the mother to relocate to wherever the ADF might send her.
- An ADF representative said that it was a condition of service that all military members are available to be posted. If they are unable or unwilling to be posted they would no longer be meeting conditions and could be dismissed.
The court dismissed the father’s appeal.
Some interesting factors that were considered in the primary judge’s reasons include:
- In determining the ‘best interests’ of a child, the court must consider the benefit to the child of a ‘meaningful relationship’ with both parents – the judge determined that even with distance, the relationship between the child and father could be meaningful, though not necessarily optimal;
- The impact to the mother if she was forced to the leave the ADF was likely to be significant, as her career with the ADF formed part of her identity and may affect her parenting capacity;
- It would be difficult for the mother to find alternate work and she would likely need to work for a lower income;
- It was not practical or in the child’s best interest for the mother to continuously return to court and request relocation orders at each posting, as the nature of her work meant she may be required to relocate multiple times during the child’s life.
The orders made by the primary judge therefore remained in place, allowing the mother to relocate with the child as needed.
Parenting matters can get complicated, especially when it comes to relocations. Each matter is also unique and has to be addressed according to one’s individual circumstances. For you initial fixed-fee consultation with one of our Family Law experts, please call (07) 3221 4300.