As we approach the end of the year, the hype of Christmas and New Year plans start to creep up on us (a lot quicker than we ever plan for!). Some of us approach the start of the new year with a ‘New Year, New Me’ resolution. This can sometimes mean the wheels are put in motion for some of the bigger and more monumental changes with the hope of leaving the old year behind and kicking off the next with a clean slate. One of the changes we sometimes see is people relocating to a new city or state to gain a fresh, new perspective. However, in a family law context, moves of this magnitude can become complex where parenting arrangements are involved.
Recently our Toowoomba family lawyers were faced with a situation in which the parents initially lived together in Brisbane and post-separation, the child primarily lived with the mother. There was a parenting plan in place, which stipulated specific times and days the child was to spend with the father. The mother made her best efforts to facilitate a healthy and loving relationship with the father and his family.
Two years after the Parenting Plan commenced, the mother’s new partner secured employment in Gladstone – a town over 500km from Brisbane. The mother proposed a parenting plan, after communications with the father, in an attempt to continue to encourage a positive relationship between the child, the father and his family. The parenting plan was implemented and followed for an extensive period. The child had regular face to face and telephone/Skype communication with the father. However, about a year after the move to Gladstone, the mother was required to move interstate to Melbourne due to a business opportunity that arose for her and her partner.
The mother notified the father of this intended move as soon as the offer on the business opportunity had been finalised. She informed the father of the child’s living arrangements and her plans to move the child with her to Melbourne, explaining that she was still very willing to facilitate a relationship between the father and the child. The child was completely aware of the move and understood what it involved; and did not express any apprehension or anxiety. The mother took a number of positive steps to ensure the move was as smooth as possible for the child. For example, she consulted the child’s current school to assist in managing the transition between schools. The mother also researched schools in Melbourne and selected the most appropriate school for the child. The mother then met with the new school to discuss the necessary steps for the child’s start at the new school to go as smoothly as possible and arranged all of the items the child would need (e.g. books, uniforms) before the move. Additionally, the mother purchased a home for the family and finalised all arrangements for the business. At all times, the mother openly communicated her intentions and plans with the father.
The mother moved to Melbourne with the child and her new partner a few months later. The move was successful and the child was very comfortable in the new city. The mother and new partner both secured sustainable employment and established a home together for the child to grow up in. The child settled into his new school very well, developed a good circle of friends and became heavily involved in extra-curricular activities. Ultimately, the child was enjoying the new living arrangements in Melbourne.
The father later sought to have the mother move back to an area closer to where he lived. The court weighed up the competing proposals of both the mother and the father. However, in considering what was in the best interest of the child, the mother was permitted to remain in Melbourne due to the happy and positive life that had been established for the child there.
This situation demonstrates that it is the child’s best interests which are deemed to be the most important consideration when relocating. Whilst a move may seem like the right decision here and now, you ultimately need to consider whether this will be beneficial or appropriate for your child.
Have you got plans to start fresh in a new city or state in 2018? Call one of our offices to see how we can assist.