Relocation – Things to consider for your first meeting with a lawyer

by Clara Mills

The transient nature of the Northern Territory, the nature of the employment opportunities in the Top End (such as mining and defence) and the high cost of living often means that families negotiating how they will parent following a separation will also have to give consideration to relocation, where one parent seeks to move a child away from the other parent.

The complexities of relocation cases

Relocation cases are difficult cases for parents to negotiate and for the Courts to decide. This is because:

  • Often the child has a secure attachment to both parents and both parents are able to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of parenthood.
  • The stakes are high for each parent as one adult’s freedom of movement may be restricted by the Court or the other parent’s relationship with their children may substantially change.
  • Whatever happens, there could be substantial financial impact on either parent.
  • The costs of litigation are high.
  • The process can take a toll on what was previously a collaborative and constructive post-separation parenting arrangement.

What to do if you are seeking to relocate

If you are the parent who is seeking to relocate, the information available to you about what you need to consider to run a successful case can be a little contradictory.

The Courts continually remind us that a parent who wishes to move does not need to have a compelling reason to do so, rather the Court will consider the facts of the case in the same way as any other parenting matter. The reality, however, is that a review of successful relocation cases shows us that those cases are always built by focusing on the reasons for the move and articulating them clearly.

The case law shows that in addition to considering the best interests of the children in the circumstances, that the Court will also give consideration to the “legitimate interests and desires” of the parents. The reality of relocation cases is that it is rarely possible to separate the children’s best interests from the relocating parent’s circumstances, legitimate interests and desires.

Be prepared for your meeting with a family lawyer

In order to make the most of your first meeting with your lawyer when considering a relocation, you can assist by considering the following reasons for wanting to relocate and how they may relate to your situation prior to the meeting:

  • What were the reasons and agreements for relocating to the Northern Territory in the first place?
  • Is homesickness a factor; are you wanting to return “home” if the relocation to the Northern Territory isn’t working?
  • Where are your family supports?
  • What are your employment opportunities both in the NT and in the location you want to move to?
  • Are there any professional or academic advantages to relocating?
  • What are the financial advantages and disadvantages of staying and relocating?
  • If you have re-partnered, where is your partner located and what are their employment opportunities?
  • Are there any cultural or religious reasons for relocating?
  • Is there any effect on your mental health which a relocation would alleviate?

Judges in family law cases have a lot of discretion in their decision making powers. By giving your lawyer carefully considered reasons for your relocation you will assist in preparing a case which may resonate with the trial judge and increase your prospects of success.

If you have any queries or wish to obtain advice in relation to any of the issues raised in this article please contact Clara Mills.

The above does not constitute specific legal advice but is general information only.



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