Paula Phelan is a Family Lawyer with Specialist Accreditation in this area from the Queensland Law Society. She has been a lawyer for 21 years and is the director of Phelan Family Law, a Rockhampton legal firm specialising in Family Law only.
The break down of a relationship is usually an emotional and distressing time in someone’s life.
Whilst the parties involved may have fallen out of love or can no longer live together, their feelings of love towards their children are usually as strong or even stronger than they have ever been.
In the event of separation, the big issue of how shared parenting is going to work needs to be addressed maturely and promptly by both parties.
Shared parenting needs commitment and respect from both parents if it is to work effectively.
It can however become particularly complicated to manage when one parent wants to move away with the children to start a new life elsewhere. The degree of difficulty escalates when “elsewhere” is a far away destination and sometimes remote.
Relocations can often occur when the parties have been separated for some time and shared parenting arrangements have been in place and working satisfactorily.
Sometimes one of the parties has found a new partner and wants to relocate with them for work or family reasons.
Understandably the prospect of a dramatic change in the parenting arrangements can cause grief and angst to the parent that remains.
The overarching consideration of the Family Court for any Orders relating to where the children are to live, is to look at what is in the best interests of the children themselves.
The Family Law Act sets out that when determining what is in a child’s best interests, the Court must consider two main things, being:
. The benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents; and
. Whether there is a need to protect the child from harm.
In considering what is in the child’s best interests, the Court will also need to look at a number of other matters including the practical difficulty and expense of each parent’s proposal.
The law requires a practical assessment of the parenting proposals as well as weighing up the best interests of the children involved. Whilst there is no universal rule that parents have to live close to each other, the rights of the child cannot be properly considered without also looking at the circumstances of the parents.
Whether a decision is made that the parent stays where they are or allows them to relocate, the Court must be satisfied that either way the arrangements are reasonably practical and in the children’s best interests.
As relocation is such a delicate and topical issue, I will discuss it again in my next column by examining the landmark High Court case of Rosa v Rosa.