Can I Move After A Divorce?

The end of your marriage marks the end of a major chapter in your life. If you have decided to move out of the matrimonial home, you know your living situation will change. In turn, your move may impact parenting and custody arrangements if you have kids with your ex-spouse. There are legal limitations and recommendations you must first consider before relocating after a divorce, we outline them below:

Moving to a new home after a divorce

Parental Mobility Rights

The Family Law Act of Ontario treats parents who have a written parenting agreement or court order in place differently than those who do not. Below we break down the process respective to each situation:

If You Have A Written Agreement

If you wish to relocate with your child you must give all other guardians a written notice indicating the proposed location at least 60 days before the date of relocation. The non-relocating parent then has 30 days to file a court application for an order to prohibit the relocation. If an order is not filed within that timeframe the relocating parent may proceed to move with the child on or after the date indicated in their initial written notice.

If an order prohibiting relocation is filed within that timeframe the Court will need to assess:

  1. What are the best interests of the child?

  2. Is the proposed relocation made in good faith?

  3. Has the relocating parent proposed a workable arrangement to maintain the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent and other persons who have a significant role in the child’s life?

If You Do Not Have A Written Agreement

When there is no written parenting agreement or court order in place, the parent who wishes to relocate with the child must apply for a relocation order. The Court considers the factors:

  1. What are the best interests of the child?

  2. Is the proposed relocation made in good faith?

  3. Has the relocating parent proposed a workable arrangement to maintain the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent and other persons who have a significant role in the child’s life?

What the Court Considers:

Best Interests of The Child

Below are some considerations that the Court will make to determine where the best interests of the child lie:

  1. What is the existing custody and access arrangement?

  2. How long has the child lived in a stable environment?

  3. What plans does each parent have for the child’s care and upbringing?

  4. How well can each person parent?

  5. How able is each person to provide for the child?

  6. How strong are the emotional ties between the child and each parent?

  7. Has there been any abuse in the household?

  8. For older children, what are the views of the child?

  9. What is the custodial parent’s reason for moving? Is it relevant to that parent’s ability to meet the needs of the child?

  10. Will the change in custody cause disruption to the child?

Is the Proposed Relocation made in Good Faith?

There are numerous reasons why a parent would choose to relocate after a divorce. A move made in good faith is generally motivated by the desire to improve your current living situation. Relocating perhaps would allow you to better meet you or your family’s emotional, financial or social needs. For instance, a parent may move in order to be closer to family members who can help with babysitting. Having social support can have a financial impact as well, if the parent’s ability to earn a decent wage is diminished by scheduling conflicts with child care duties. Other reasons a divorced parent may consider moving can include: employment opportunities or getting away from a harassing ex-spouse.

According to research, “relocation disputes pose a considerable dilemma [because they may] pit a custodial parent’s reasonable wish to better her circumstances by moving against a noncustodial parent’s reasonable desire to maintain frequent contact with his minor child” (Kelly & Lamb 2003). Due to this fact, the Court primarily considers the impact this move will have on  the child.

Family law Courts look at what arrangements currently exist. If the child’s living arrangement is working well, the Court may not want to make big changes to the status quo.

Preserving A Child’s Relationship With The Non-Custodial Parent

Ultimately, a move will mean a change in regards to child custody or parenting arrangements. Depending on the distance of the move, this may cause parental alienation on behalf of the non-custodial parent. If the non-relocating parent does not wholly object to the relocation but wants to ensure measures are in place to preserve their relationship with their child, they should first attempt to resolve these matters outside of court. Ensure you address concerns such as holidays, travel fees and maintaining contact; and include these details in your Parenting Plan. The key is to find a balance wherein the child can maintain relationships with both parents.

A child's relationship with the non-custodial parent must be preserved

For Your Consideration:

The Impact of Relocation on Children

Research indicates that children of divorce fare better if their parents remain in the same local area or within an hours drive of the other parent. Results showed that children whose parents had been separated by more than an hours' drive were “significantly disadvantaged,” with increased hostility, distress over their parents’ divorce, and life satisfaction (Braver et al 2003). Further research concludes that “relocation stresses and often disrupts psychologically important parent-child relationships” which has adverse consequences for children (Kelly and Lamb 2003). This particularly influences younger children who are in the early stages of attachment formation.

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