What happens when one parent wishes to move house but the distance would then prevent the other parent from continuing to have the presently ordered shared time with their child?
Here is one scenario where the mother wished to move house.
The separated parents of a child have existing parenting orders granting them equal shared time with their child. The parents’ present homes are within an hour’s drive of each other and their child’s present school was within easy reach of both homes.
However, the mother’s workplace was some distance from her home and she was finding that her travel time to and from work was impacting on the time she could spend with her child during the weeks the child resided with her. The mother was proposing to change her residence to a location closer to her workplace and to enrol the child in a school within a reasonable distance from that new house. The mother’s proposed new living arrangements would mean that it was not reasonably practicable for the court-ordered equal shared time of the child with the father to continue due to distance.
To facilitate the move, the mother applied to the Court for a change to the parenting orders asking that the existing orders be changed to allow the child to reside full-time with her and for the father’s equal shared access to be changed to him spending less time with the child. She told the court that these new arrangements were necessary for her to be able to spend the amount of time with the child that was appropriate for the proper care of the child during the week.
The father did not object to the mother’s move but he would not consider moving from his existing home and he asked that the child continue at the current school and reside with him during all school weeks instead.
Therefore, the decision for the Court was to consider in whose care the child should primarily be placed, in other words, who should the child should reside with, given that it would no longer be reasonably practicable for them to have equal shared time with the child.
A Family Consultant recommended that if the mother did move then the father should have significant ‘other’ time with the child. However, if the Court was not supportive of the mother’s move, then the current arrangements should stay as they were – equal shared time.
His Honour found that the father had a history of acting contrary to existing court orders and/or arrangements agreed between the parties and had shown an antagonistic attitude towards the mother’s new partner.
The mother was found to have regularly communicated by telephone with the father in a civilised manner but was met with silence and non-cooperation from him. There was also a history of text messages between the parents which were highly derogatory of each other.
The child’s view that she wished to remain in close contact with both parents was taken into account by the Court but were given little weight due to her young age.
The Court considered the best interests of the child were the main consideration and determined that it would be in the child’s best interests for the parenting arrangements to be changed to allow the child to live with the mother at a new house provided the father was given substantial time with the child, although it would no longer be equal time. The parenting orders were then changed accordingly.
The father proposed they exchange the child at a midway point between their homes but the Court rejected the proposal because the distance the mother would be required to drive was on roads that were less safe to drive on and required a high degree of concentration, whereas the journey the father would drive involved mostly freeways. The Court therefore ordered that the father should drive the larger portion of the total distance with handover to occur at a location closer to the mother.
This story is just one scenario of many that can occur when one parent wants to move further away from the other parent and the move will affect the existing arrangements for the amount time the other parent will be able to spend with their children.
If you are seeking a change in your current parenting orders either by agreement between you, or by way of a court order, contact us at Northside Lawyers for advice on how to go about doing this.
CAUTION: This article contains general information of public interest only and is not intended to be, nor should be relied upon as, legal advice specific to the reader’s personal circumstances. Should you have a legal matter, please seek professional advice before acting or relying on this content.