Move or Relocation with Children under the BC Family Law Act

So you have separated from you spouse and now want to move to a different city to get away from it all and perhaps start a new life with your partner. Hold your horses though, relocation with the child can be difficult to achieve in Courts because it essentially means your child will have reduced contact with your ex and that may not be fair to your child. Let's see what factors are important in relocation cases:

Do You and Your Spouse Have Almost Equal Parenting Time with the Child?

If after separation you and your spouse have substantially equal parenting time with the child, then the courts will be reluctant to allow you to move. If on the other hand, the child primarily resides with you and your spouse only has limited contact with the child, then your chances of being able to move are higher. But that's not the end of the matter:

Purpose of Relocation or Move With Children under s.69 of the BC Family Law Act

You must first prove to the Court the following:

  1. Your intended relocation is made in good faith;
  2. You have suggested reasonable and workable arrangements to preserve the relationship between the child and your spouse; and
  3. The relocation is in the child's best interests.

So saying you want to relocate to be with your new partner or to get a better job are not enough. Your best interests are not necessarily your child's best interests so you should approach the issue by looking what serves your child best interest and explain to the Court why the move would benefit the child, not you.

Your Child's Best Interests and Relocation Under the BC Family Law Act

In R. C. v. R. E. H., the mother of a five-year old wanted to move away to Williams Lake and take the child with her. The parties were residing in Surrey and the father had equal parenting time with the child. The mother said the move would help her obtain meaningful employment and allow her to be with her new partner.

The court considered the following factors to decide whether to allow the move or not:

  1. the child's health and emotional well-being;
  2. the child's views, unless it would be inappropriate to consider them;
  3. the nature and strength of the relationships between the child and significant persons in the child's life;
  4. the history of the child's care;
  5. the child's need for stability, given the child's age and stage of development;
  6. the ability of each person who is a guardian or seeks guardianship of the child, or who has or seeks parental responsibilities, parenting time or contact with the child, to exercise his or her responsibilities;
  7. the impact of any family violence on the child's safety, security or well-being, whether the family violence is directed toward the child or another family member;
  8. whether the actions of a person responsible for family violence indicate that the person may be impaired in his or her ability to care for the child and meet the child's needs;
  9. the appropriateness of an arrangement that would require the child's guardians to cooperate on issues affecting the child, including whether requiring cooperation would increase any risks to the safety, security or well-being of the child or other family members;
  10. any civil or criminal proceeding relevant to the child's safety, security or well-being.
  11. the reasons for the proposed relocation
  12. whether the proposed relocation is likely to enhance the general quality of life of the child and, if applicable, of the relocating guardian, including increasing emotional well-being or financial or educational opportunities
  13. whether notice was given under section 66 [notice of relocation]
  14. any restrictions on relocation contained in a written agreement or an order.

The Court ultimately decided not to allow the move reasoning:

... a child's development is hampered and faces increased risks of their emotional and psychological status if there are large distances between their residences. Non-residential fathers customarily have diminished roles and eventually decrease their parent-child involvement due to geographical distance. This decrease in contact can inhibit the attachment of a child to that parent and undermine ongoing parent-child relationships.

The Court decided not to allow the move as it determined that the mother's goal was not made in good faith.

Every relocation case in family litigation is different with its unique factors. If you are thinking of moving with your child or want to prevent your spouse from moving, it is crucial that you contact a BC Family Lawyer to consider your options and chances of success.

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.