Whenever a couple divorces and there are children in that marriage, in most cases both parents will be awarded joint parental responsibility unless one parent and their family lawyer can show the family court that sole responsibility should be ordered.
In truth, it is rare for sole parental responsibility to be given, except where one of the parents is absent or not capable of having such responsibility, for example, if they are a serious drug user.
For most parents and children, it is joint parental responsibility which will apply and that will cover who the children live with, visitation, and also the obligation for both parents to discuss and agree on any and all of the major decisions that relate to a child’s upbringing and welfare.
One major problem with that scenario is when the parent with whom a child lives decides that they wish to relocate. When we say relocate that is not talking about a simple house move to another part of the city, but instead referring to a move to a completely different city or state.
Obviously, were that to occur it would curtail any regular visitation, and naturally, the other parent would likely object to such a relocation taking place. In any event, for a parent to move with their child a significant distance away, where the is a current order in place with regards to the children and visitation, for example, a relocation order would be required from the Family Court.
The Family Court will first and foremost consider what is in the best interests of the children. With principles such as joint parental responsibility in place and the desire within family law that the children should have a healthy relationship with both parents, in the vast majority of cases, the court is likely to not give permission for a relation to take place.
However, it is not impossible for them to grant one if specific circumstances exist. One famous example of this is the ‘Rosa case’, where a divorced mother wished to relocate with her child from Mount Isa in Queensland back to Sydney where the family had lived previously recently The father objected and the family court agreed that it was not in the best interests of the child if their parents lived over 1,500 miles apart.
The child’s mother appealed this decision to the High Court and submitted evidence that showed her living conditions (she was living in a caravan), her mental state, and her employment prospects in Mount Isa were significantly poorer than they would be if she relocated to Sydney.
Conversely, in Sydney, she had excellent employment prospects, could provide her child with a proper home, and had a significantly greater support network which would benefit her child. The High Court agreed that it would be in the best interests of the child if they lived in Sydney and thus it granted the relocation order.
This proves that ultimately the courts will decide upon relocation orders not so much in terms of how they meet the needs of parents, but more whether the welfare of any child in question would be better or not.
This can obviously be devastating to the parent who now has their child living hundreds or thousands of miles away, but in truth, the court does not regard that as enough reason to stop a relocation, especially if it would greatly benefit the child.
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