International relocation the focus of recent family law case

Date: Dec 19, 2014

The ongoing care of a child is a serious concern for separated couples, especially when one party wishes to move overseas. In cases where a child custody agreement is already in place, this can lead to legal action as both parties seek clarity on whether or not a child can legally move out of Australia.

This was seen in a recent case before the Family Court, in which a father sought court orders to prevent his former partner from relocating to India with the pair's child. On appeal, the appellant unsuccessfully attempted to revoke an initial order allowing the child and the child's mother to move overseas permanently.

In the end, the Judge ruled in favour of the Lower Court, agreeing that the woman was justified in moving back to India with the child.

Among the main issues that the court considered was the requirement that both parents spend time with their child. Under the current arrangement, the woman had primary custody, while the appellant took the child for weekends.

The father originally proposed that the existing arrangement continue, as he submitted that continuing this arrangement was in the child's best interests, over moving to India.

In response, the woman suggested a number of changes to accommodate the shift to India, such as regular Skype calls between her former partner and their child, and facilitating his travel to India once a year.

In making their verdict, the Appeals Judge ruled against the appellant, agreeing with the child's mother that the best outcome was for the child to continue living with her full time. The proposed living arrangement also contained enough allowances for the child's father to maintain contact.

For others who are considering contesting the custody of a child, especially when it comes to moving overseas, this case highlights a number of important considerations. As with all family law cases, primary consideration was given to the wellbeing of the child, with the court required to come to a judgment based on which form this would take.

In this case, the Judge also emphasised that, although the appellant had a right to see his child regularly - in keeping with the current arrangement - this did not override the court's imperative to focus on the best interests of the child.

If you require legal advice when negotiating changes to a child custody arrangement, make sure you contact a family lawyer with expertise in this area.