Moving Your Children After Separation

If you’re divorced and considering moving to a new community with your children, you have lots of legal questions about Canadian child custody. Does Canadian family law require that you obtain permission to relocate? In most cases, the answer is yes. The need for permission depends on the original custody order and the nature of the move. In most cases, if the move will make it noticeably harder for the other parent to have access to the children, you need permission to move, either from the other parent or from a court. Moving to another province or another country virtually always requires permission, but even a move within the province may require permission if it means the other parent has to travel 30 minutes or more to see the children. Getting permission from the other parent isn’t usually easy, and what the court will do is hard to predict. There are a few basic principles of Canadian family law to consider, though.

The court is mostly concerned about what’s best for the children. Under Canadian family law, if a move benefits the parent but not especially the child – say, if you’re moving just to be near a new partner – the court is less likely to grant permission.

In general, the court will consider increased distance from either parent to be a disadvantage for the children. If children have good relationships with both parents in their current location, then disturbing either relationship will be a factor against allowing the move under Canadian family law. On the other hand, if the children live near both parents but the other parent rarely sees the children, the court is less likely to consider a move as a disadvantage to the child.

How much of a disadvantage a move is considered to be depends on how much it will actually limit the other parent’s ability to spend time with the children. Usually that means the farther the move, the more of a disadvantage it is. But not always – for example, if both parents have incomes that make the cost of travel relatively minor, then even a longer distance might be considered only a minor disadvantage. On the other hand, if the other parent has a disability that makes travel especially difficult, a short move might be considered a greater disadvantage under Canadian family law.

In order to grant permission, the court will want to see that the pros of the move outweigh the cons – for the children. If the parent with custody has a guaranteed job in the new location, or if the children are having difficulty in their current location and it seems likely they’ll do better in the new community, these advantages might be considered more important than the disadvantages.

Other Canadian family law considerations that might make a move an advantage include: family support at the new home; benefits such as considerably better schools at the new home; or the possibility of offsetting the effects of the move by providing the other parent with longer holidays or other periods of extended contact.

The courts treat decisions to move children away from one parent very seriously – because it is a very serious issue. Any move that puts distance between a child and a parent is likely to affect the child’s relationship with that parent. If you’ve considered the issue carefully and you believe the move is in your children’s best interest, it’s worth contacting a Canadian family law lawyer to pursue the legal steps to obtain permission to move.

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