As life goes on for separated parents it’s quite usual for one of them to gain new opportunities that involve relocating their home to a new location.
In shared custody arrangements this brings up the question of whether relocation will affect the custody agreement that is in place. The Family Law Act requires parents to consult on changes that have an impact on the child custody arrangements, and typically the parenting orders will include some guidelines for what each parent can do, and what they would need to consult each other about. However if the order is silent about this then parties will ordinarily be required to attend mediation before commencing Court proceedings about an issue.
For example, if a parent normally has their child every second weekend and for a longer period each school holidays, the question would be whether the relocation will make that arrangement difficult or impossible to maintain. Moving a few suburbs away may mean a small increase in travel time to pick up and drop off the child. In comparison, moving from Brisbane to Sydney has a significant impact and requires air travel each time the child goes to stay with the other parent.
Ultimately parents should comply with the parenting agreement or Court orders that are in place. That applies to both parents, not just the parent who has primary care of the child. Whether you think the change is significant or not, the parents should consult with each other and come to an agreement. If you can’t agree, then the parent who wishes to relocate will need to seek a change to the Court order.
The distance that a parent relocates is not really the issue here. There is no specific limit written in to the law as to how far a parent can relocate in these circumstances.
The Court will consider whether the relocation has a significant impact on the relationship that the child has with each parent and their families, whether it impacts the child’s normal routines such as which school they attend, whether it causes additional expense to the parents, and whether the relocation places an unfair burden on the child such as excessive travel time.
There are additional considerations as well, depending on the circumstances. Each case is unique when it comes to life changes that impact custody of your children. It’s important to understand your rights and responsibilities in these situations before making any big commitments. If you are considering relocation, we suggest that you seek legal advice first to understand how the proposed change would impact your parenting arrangements.