There’s a lot to be said for making a fresh start. Particularly if your relationship has recently ended. But relocating with children after a separation or divorce is not straight forward if the other parent doesn’t agree.

Relocation cases are becoming more common as the cost-of-living soars and one parent finds living in the same city or town is no longer affordable. We take a look at how the decision is made.

What the Court looks at

It comes down to what is in the best interests of the child. A wide range of factors are taken into account. There is not one default position, and each case is considered on its own merits.

There are some key principles though.

Safety: The child’s safety must come first. Their current environment is weighed against the proposed new environment. Broader safety issues such as the suburb/town/country are considered as well as the safety factors at home, including whether there is any risk of family violence.

Parents have primary care and responsibility for their child’s upbringing: Ideally both parents should be part of the child's life. If one parent moves far away, it will likely be harder for them to remain involved in the day-to-day aspects of their child’s life. However, if the non-moving parent has already demonstrated an unwillingness to be involved, it would weaken their objection to the move.

Strength of the co-parenting relationship: Parents must be able to communicate and work together when it comes to any important decisions made about the child. If there’s hostility between the parents, the relationship between the child and the non-moving parent may be weakened because of that poor communication.

Continuity: If a child is used to having both parents around, the court will be cautious about changing that unless there is a good reason. Likewise, if the child is well-settled in school and has close friends and family in their present environment.

Relationships with parents and wider whānau: When children are young, they form bonds with the people around them. That may be damaged or disrupted if a move occurs. The child’s connection with grandparents and the wider whanau is considered.

Protecting a child’s identity: A child's identity, including their culture, language, and religion, must be preserved. This is particularly relevant if one parent wants to move overseas. The move may help the child explore the other half of their heritage that they have not yet been exposed to but must be balanced against the risk of losing the current connections to their identity.

Child’s views: The Court will consider whether the child has expressed their view on moving. The older the child is, the more weight their opinion will have.

Other factors will also be considered: the effect on a parent's mental health; the impact on sibling relationships; the cost of travel between each parent's home; the financial benefits; the nature and quality of the child’s relationship with each parent; the reasonableness of the parent’s wish to relocate; and finally, what will happen if the move is not allowed to take place.

The final analysis
Each relocation application must prove the move is in the best interest of the child, otherwise it is unlikely to succeed.

Relationship & Family