Short distance relocation
The term ‘relocation’ in family law refers to one parent seeking to relocate their home, with the children, some distance away from the other parent. Relocation matters are difficult and often a decision is not made until final hearing. So, how far is too far? And what should the court do?
Let’s consider (2) recent cases where a move of 1 hour was proposed.
In the first case, the court was asked to decide whether to permit the mother to relocate with the child to a place that was 1 hours’ drive from her present residence. It was in essence a “change in suburb”, however enough of a move to disrupt the current care arrangements in place for the child. The court was asked to make a decision about which parent the child should primarily ‘live with’ and a possible change in schools.
The court found that: at 6 years of age the child ‘knew her father well’, the mother was pregnant and was moving to be with her new partner, the mother had been the primary carer and the distance was not insurmountable for the father. The Judge permitted the mother to move and to changethe school. The father received 4 nights per fortnight and half holidays.
In another recent relocation case, the parents had been born and raised and commenced their relationship in a regional town. During the relationship the mother commenced work at another town 1 hours drive away. Following separation, the parents conducted a ‘week about’ arrangement from when the child was 1 ½ years until 3 years. The mother then sought an order that the child live primarily with her as the child’s primary schooling was starting soon. The parents agreed that the week about arrangement couldn’t continue.
The court found that although the child was 5 years old he expressed a wish to the report writer to be with the father. The child also had a close relationship with his paternal cousins and the fathers extended family, who all lived in the same town as the father.
The Judge ordered the child not relocate and that he ‘live with’ the father and ‘spend time with’ the mother 4 nights per fortnight and half holidays.