Michelle Rogers – November 2015
Today’s society is a very mobile one. With easy access to travel and communication technology, many people will relocate for personal, career, or relationship reasons. These reasons often include:
- Moving for a new job, or education;
- Moving for or a partner’s job or education;
- Moving to a new partner’s home city, following a long distance relationship;
- Returning to a city of origin, after a separation or divorce.
As individual adults, the decision to move is a personal one. This can become significantly more complicated for separated or divorced parents with children. When one moves to a new city, the children must either live primarily with the remaining parent, or the moving parent.
A parent cannot move with a child without the consent of the other parent, or a court order.
Unfortunately, the issue of “mobility” is an often litigated one. The focus is on the best interests of the child, not the interests and rights of the parents. In making a determination, the court will consider many factors, including:
- the existing custody arrangement and relationship between the child and the custodial parent;
- the existing access arrangement and the relationship between the child and the access parent;
- the desirability of maximizing contact between the child and both parents;
- the views of the child;
- the custodial parent’s reason for moving, only in the exceptional case where it is relevant to that parent’s ability to meet the needs of the child;
- disruption to the child of a change in custody; and
- disruption to the child consequent on removal from family, schools, and the community he or she has come to know.
- the number of years the parents cohabited with each other and with child;
- the quality and the quantity of parenting time;
- the age, maturity, and special needs of the child;
- the advantages of the move to the moving parent in respect to that parent’s ability to better meet the child’s needs;
- the time it will take the child to travel between residences and the cost of that travel;
- the feasibility of a parallel move by the parent who is objecting to the move;
- the feasibility of a move by the moving parent’s new partner;
- the willingness of the moving parent to ensure access will occur between the child and the other parent;
- the nature and content of any agreements between the parents about relocations;
- the likelihood of a move by the parent who objects to the relocation;
- the financial resources of each family unit;
- the expected permanence of the new custodial environment;
- the continuation of the child’s cultural and religious heritage;
- the ability of the moving parent to foster the child’s relationship with the other parent over long distances.
- What does the parent know about child development and is there evidence indicating what is suggested to be “known” has been or will be put into practice?
- Is there a good temperamental match between the child and the parent? A freewheeling, risk taking child may not thrive well in the primary care of a fearful, restrictive parent.
- Can the parent set boundaries for the child and does the child accept those restrictions without the need for the parent to resort to harsh discipline?
- Does the child respond to the parent’s attempts to comfort or guide the child when the child is unhappy, hurt, lonely, anxious, or afraid? How does that parent give comfort and guidance to the child?
- Is the parent emphatic toward the child? Does the parent enjoy and understand the child as an individual or is the parent primarily seeking gratification of his or her own personal needs through the child?
- Can the parent examine the proposed parenting plan through the child’s eyes and reflect what aspects of that plan may cause problems for, or be resisted by, the child?
- Has the parent made changes in his or her life or behaviour to meet the child’s needs, or is he or she prepared to do so for the welfare of the child?
The decision to relocate with or without a child should be discussed with a lawyer far in advance of the intended move. If a parent wishes to relocate with a child, the other parent’s consent or court approval must be sought. In both cases, it will be necessary to arrange a new parenting schedule that takes into account both parents’ new living circumstances.