Last week I spoke at a Legalwise Conference in Sydney on the subject “Relocation – How Far Can I Go?” which was very successful. Yesterday I appeared at the request of a solicitor, at a duty list, in a relocation case, due to the complexities of the case. The mother (my client) had unilaterally relocated, six months ago, from a large regional city to another state capital with her young child, over 1000 kms away. The father sought orders that the mother return with the child. The Judge ordered an 11F conference, which was carried out on the day. What was the outcome? What can we learn about relocation i.e. issues that arise, children’s views, mothers (usually the parent who relocates) views/adjustments, when relocation is not permitted. What are relocation cases? The following is a snap shot of the answers to these pertinent questions!
Relocation is one of the most difficult and complex issues in parenting cases in family Law. They are a special category of parenting disputes, as they give rise to uncompromising conflicts between two competing ideas about how post separation family life should operate.
When a nonresident parent decides to move away from the children, there may be some loss for them as a consequence of the difficulties of maintaining contact with that parent. However, in such a scenario, no relocation dispute arises, because a non- residence parent cannot be compelled to maintain residence at a particular location
Many people think of relocation as moving to another regional town, another city or overseas. What about intracity, within a large city, like Sydney, where the distance and travel time may be comparable to a regional town relocation? For e.g. Palm Beach to Cronulla (approx 1 1/2 hours drive) etc, in my view, the same issues arise as in other ‘relocation’ cases.
How positively children view relocation, when proposed, and then how well they adjusted to the move, has been documented by longitudinal studies (Parkinson and Cashmere) and found three major themes:
- how close they were to their father (the non-resident parent),
- their feelings about leaving and making new friends, and
- the presence of a liked or disliked step-parent
When mothers (the applicant) were not permitted to move, the underlying reasons for their ability to adjust or not to the adverse decision, were found by Parkinson and Cashmore to suggest:
- The degree of control they were able to exercise over their own future.
- Their recognition that the children benefited from a close relation- ship with their father.
- The father’s degree of involvement with, and responsibility for, the children.
- The level of toxicity in the father-mother relationship
Its always difficult to advise clients, because of the variance in decisions concerning relocation. However, here a a few tips (not complete) to assist:
- Provide realistic advice about the relocating parties proposal for the child/ren to spend time with the non-residence parent, if the relocation is permitted as well as the respective viability and costs.
- Provide the Court with an alternative set or orders in the event the relocation is not permitted [Blanding & Blanding  FamCAFC 21]
- Dig deep with your proposed relocating client as to the relationship between the children and their father (how much involvement has he had in their lives, child support, disinterest etc)?
- Has there been any family violence, abuse or what is the level of acrimony?
- What is the reason for the proposed relocation (Court says don’t need compelling reasons, practically – reasons needs to be clearly put before the Court)
- Do the young ages of the child/ren dictate that they need regular time with the non residence parent or are they older and can deal with longer breaks with more block time with the non residence parent?
- Will there be a significant diminution in relationship between the child/ren and the non residence if the relocation is permitted? [major issue that arises; will the child/ren be able to have a meaningful relationship with both parents s 60CC Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)
Relocation cases are particularly difficult, hard fought, and controversial and have a higher degree of complexity than ‘usual’ parenting matters, and are difficult, if not impossible to settle.
Yesterday, the Judge allowed the mother to remain, 1000 kms away, on an interim basis (even though there was little to no objective evidence before the Court) In my view, that decision is very unlikely to be disturbed on a final basis. The proceedings were transferred to the mother’s location (respondent) in another state capital. All of this was accomplished at a duty list!
If you require assistance from a family law barrister, conversant with relocation issues and advice, contact Louise on (02) 9336 5399 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Louise provides lunch and learn sessions for law firms, designed to assist and provide up to date, practical and easy to implement strategies whilst educating lawyers on growing areas of law. Louise’s most recent topic of “Relocation – How Far Can I Go?“can now be presented at your firm. Find out more at http://www.sydneybarrister.net.au Contact Louise on (02) 9336 5399 or email@example.com to organise a mutually suitable time/day.