Parenting disputes are one of the particularly emotionally taxing family cases. Who is the child to live with? How to keep meaningful involvement of both parents in a child's life? What if one of the parents wants to move, whether in search of friends or family support or to start a new job?

Relocation parenting disputes are among the most challenging of cases. Often they are almost impossible to mediate or compromise.

How does the court approach such cases?

Parenting matters are determined according to the paramount consideration of the child's best interests. The Family Court stated that there is often more than 'one right answer to the question of what the best interest of the child require .... best interests are values, not facts' (CDJ v VAJ (1998)).

The primary consideration is the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents and the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm. The court will aim to make orders providing equal time with each parent or at least substantial and significant time with one of them.

It is seldom easy to resolve the dilemma of the child's right to maintain a relationship with both parents on the one hand and the parents' 'freedom of movement' on the other. The child's interests will be assessed against what is realistic, feasible and reasonably practicable in the circumstances. The Family Court will consider the distance between the parents' places of residence, assess the proposed arrangements from practical standpoint: what are the parents' financial circumstances, would one of them move closer to where the other was living, what impact would moving or staying have on the children's circumstances, both financial and through the stress it engendered in the parents or one of them.

Protecting Children

Experts agree that although divorce is difficult and stressful for kids no matter what, the real harm to children comes from being subjected to conflict between parents. The longer that lasts, and the more severe it is, the worse impact it has on your kids. Parents are worried that they may ruin their children's lives, but their separation or divorce is just a life experience and one learns from it.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. Please get in touch with our family lawyers for expert advice.

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