Navigating the complexities of parenting arrangements after separation or divorce can be challenging, especially when it involves moving house or travelling with children. The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) serves as the foundation for addressing issues related to the care of children after separation in Australia. Under this law, both parents have equal and shared parental responsibility, which means that they should make all important decisions for their children together. This extends to decisions regarding the relocation of the children within the country, as well as travelling with the children. This article explores the legal aspects and considerations involved when it comes to moving children within Australia and travelling with them after separation.

Moving House with Children

Relocating with children is a significant decision that can impact the child’s relationship with both parents. When one parent wishes to move with the children, they must seek consent from the other parent. If both parents consent, they can work together to adjust parenting arrangements to accommodate the move. Of course, effective communication and cooperation between co-parents is essential to navigating the process of relocating with children. Ideally, parents should work together to create a parenting plan that addresses the child’s needs and maintains a strong relationship with both parents.

If no agreement can be reached, then it is possible to obtain a court order to allow the move to occur. In such cases, the paramount consideration must be the best interests of the child. The Court will consider factors such as the reasons for the move and the impact on the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent. Considerations such as the child’s age, schooling, social connections, and emotional needs will also be examined by the Court. If the Court approves the relocation, it may order new parenting arrangements to ensure the child maintains a meaningful relationship with both parents. This could involve changes to care and visitation schedules.

Travelling with Children

Traveling with children after separation can also be a complex issue, particularly when one parent intends to take the child on an international trip. Several considerations and legal requirements come into play. For instance, both parents’ consent is generally required for a child to obtain a passport. If one parent opposes international travel, they can prevent the child from leaving the country by refusing to provide this consent. This can effectively curtail the plans of the parent who wishes to travel with their child.

In the rare case where one parent has sole parental responsibility, they can make decisions about the child’s travel without the other parent’s consent. However, sole parental responsibility is rarely ordered by the Court, and typically only happens when there are specific safety concerns. In addition, even if one parent has sole parental responsibility, they may still be required to notify the other parent about international travel plans, including destination, dates, and contact information during the trip.

Child Abduction

A common concern for separated parents is that the parent travelling with the child may not return to Australia. The Family Law Act addresses international child abduction, providing mechanisms for the return of children who have been unlawfully taken or retained overseas by one parent.

A parent whose child has not been returned can apply to the Court for a recovery order. This empowers Australian Federal Police to investigate the activities and movements of the missing child and abducting parent. In the case of an international abduction and the abducting parent has removed the child from Australia, the AFP will cooperate with international agencies to find and return the child.

Seek Assistance

Moving or travelling with children after separation in Australia involves complex legal considerations that revolve around the child’s best interests and the responsibilities of both parents. Communication, cooperation, and a focus on the child’s well-being are paramount in addressing these issues amicably whenever possible.

When disputes arise, seeking legal advice and, if necessary, obtaining court orders can provide clarity and ensure that decisions align with the legal framework established by the family law. Ultimately, the goal is to provide stability and a supportive environment for the child, even in the midst of a significant life transition.

This is general information only and you should obtain professional advice relevant to your circumstances. If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on 02 9792 8413 or email [email protected].