Child Relocation Issues and Guardianship Decisions

Child Relocation Issues and Guardianship Decisions

Disputes between parents about where a child should live commonly arise. The place of residence of a child is what is known as a guardianship decision. This means that, most of the time, any move to the child’s place of residence requires the consent of both parents. Whilst a parent who has primary care of a child are able to make day to day decisions for the child on their own, guardianship decisions cannot be made in the same way.

Guardianship decisions include matters such as a child’s place of residence, surgery or significant medical treatment, schooling and travel overseas. None of these decisions can be made without the consent of both parents. Consent can be obtained through negotiating and reaching agreement or obtaining a court order. Without consent, a child cannot be uprooted from their current location on a permanent basis. It is therefore important to obtain legal advice around what your rights and obligations are before changing your child’s place of residence. In most situations, both parents will be guardians of a child but it is important to understand whether that is the case for your family as there are circumstances where a father may not be a guardian of a child.

We can assist you in negotiating with the other parent to achieve a resolution or, if that is not possible, achieving a resolution through court proceedings. Determining a child’s place of residence is not black and white and each situation must be determined on its own facts. This makes it difficult to predict what the outcome is likely to be if the matter were decided by the court, however, the focus must be on what is in the best interests of the child. The following factors are generally taken into account:

  • The age of the child and the amount of weight to be given to their views
  • The relationship between the child and each parent, in particular, the parent who does not have primary care of the child
  • How the child’s relationship with the “non-relocating” parent can be maintained after the relocation takes place
  • Whether the proposed relocation strengthens or weakens the child’s relationship with wider family and whanau
  • The safety and wellbeing of the child
  • The impact of the relocation on the circumstances of the parent who has primary care of the child

The above list of factors is not exhaustive but provides an understanding of the types of matters which are considered.

If you are unsure about your rights as a guardian or would like legal advice regarding relocation, please do not hesitate to contact our senior family lawyer, Sharon Chandra.

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