After separation, it is not as easy as saying goodbye to your ex-partner and moving on to never see them again. Where there are children of the relationship, your life may suddenly seem confined to a certain area. Suddenly, you have to consider your life, including support systems, job prospects and raising children, in a place you didn’t necessarily envisage yourself ever staying in alone or long term. So, the question will often arise – can I relocate (move away) with the children?
Mareet & Colbrooke is a recent Family Court case which considered the boundaries of what may constitute a relocation case. The case involved a very young baby, who was born after the mother had moved from the region where the father was to a town in Queensland, having been the victim of family violence. The primary judge in the interim hearing ordered the mother and her baby to return to the region in New South Wales where the father resided. On appeal, the Family Court found that the primary judge had incorrectly identified the case as a relocation case because the child’s residence was never in fact in New South Wales. This mischaracterisation led to some significant errors of law, including that the primary judge:
- Did not consider the ability of the father to travel to the region the mother was in to see the child;
- Did not turn her mind to the interests of the mother’s older child who was enrolled in preschool in Queensland;
- Failed to consider the financial burden (and other burdens, including that she had entered into a lease on a property, furniture moved, etc.) on the mother if she were to move for what could possibly be only in the short time; and
- Incorrectly assumed that the maternal grandmother could assist the mother financially in the move.
Relocation cases are heartbreaking because either a party will be permitted to move away with the children of the relationship (which is heartbreaking to the parent left behind) or they will not be permitted to move (which is heartbreaking for the parent wanting to move). The Court has to consider a whole range of very important factors when considering a potential move and generally will not consider a move without there first being a proper investigation of what is in the best interests of the children.
If you are facing a relocation (or wanting to stop one), it is imperative that you obtain advice early on from a family law specialist – we can help. �A�