Family & Divorce

What you need to know about relocating your children after separation

Relocating children after separation or divorce is a challenge with both legal and personal considerations, writes family lawyer Deanna Gatto.

There are many reasons why you may want relocate after a separation – for example you may wish to return to family to gain their support, or find better employment prospects. If there are children of the relationship however there are important considerations to be taken into account before the move is made.

If you have already obtained a parenting Order from the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (“the Court”) in relation to care arrangements for your children, it is important to note whether there are any restrictions on relocating away from your principal place of residence before relocating. If restrictions are in place, you may need either the consent of the other parent, or an Order of the Court before relocating. Your parenting Order may also set out the agreed drop-off times and locations, and you will therefore need to consider whether you can still abide by these terms if you relocate. If you cannot, you may need to propose alternative arrangements with the other parent which will need to be agreed upon. In the case of an interstate relocation, a new parenting arrangement may also need to be agreed, and therefore a further parenting Order may need to be drafted by your lawyer.

Even if there are no parenting Orders in place, it is still recommended that you discuss the proposed relocation with the other parent, including any changes to the current arrangements, and obtain their consent first.

If you choose to relocate without obtaining the proper consents, the other parent may bring an application for an injunction to prevent you from moving. Injunctions are normally granted by the Court in the first instance, and then you would be given the opportunity to show why relocating would be beneficial. It will depend on your individual circumstances as to whether the injunction is lifted and the relocation is allowed.

How relocating will affect your children

Your priority should be considering whether relocating would be in the best interests of your children. Contact arrangements can become difficult if you place a significant distance between the children and both their parents. You need to ensure that moving is not to the detriment of the children or the children’s relationship and the time spent with the other parent. If you are proposing a relocation which would impact the time your children spend with the other parent, you will need to consider how their relationship with that parent will be supported and encouraged following the relocation.

Another important consideration is how your relocation will affect your children’s current lives. They may be attending school, playing sport and have friends they do not want to move away from. You need to consider how the children are going to handle spending time in two locations. Will they be able to play sport on the weekends if they are spending time with the other parent in a different location? Will they miss out on sleepovers or social activities?

A relocation may also require your children to fly by airplane or travel by another mode of transportation to visit with their other parent. You need to consider whether your children will be comfortable travelling on their own or if they would need to be accompanied (in line with airline regulations).

How relocating will affect you

You may need to approach your lawyer and draft a parenting Order (or updated parenting Order) to outline new arrangements for the time each parent spends with the child. This would involve negotiating with the other parent and hopefully coming to an agreement. Legal fees therefore need to be considered, however the total legal fees will largely depend on the actions of the other parent in the negotiation process and whether litigation is required.

Unless otherwise agreed, the costs of travel could also be your responsibility as you have moved the children away. The costs of travel may need to be considered, especially if significant airplane fares are required for each visit. Your children may not be comfortable flying on their own, and therefore additional costs may be incurred if a parent is required to accompany them on the flight.

Whilst relocating may seem to be a good idea at the time, the above considerations indicate this decision needs to be carefully planned as it can greatly impact the lives of all those involved. Our team of family lawyers can provide you with comprehensive advice in relation to your specific circumstances and help you achieve the best outcome for you and your children.

Deanna Gatto is a lawyer at TGB’s Adelaide, Salisbury and Gawler offices. For advice, book an appointment at your nearest TGB office.