Childrens' interests come first

It's something we've all seen before - mum and dad separate. 

One parent (or the family of that parent) owns the family farm and the other parent decides to look for somewhere else to live. 

That new home might be in a different town, state or country to the family farm. Let's assume that the parent leaving has primary care of the children and wants to take them with him or her. Can they do that? What if the other parent wants the children to stay living on the farm?

From a legal perspective, the court must have the best interests of the children as its paramount consideration. This may not always be aligned with the wishes of the parents and what they believe will make them happy. Taking the example above, moving might be the right decision for one parent but not necessarily for the children.

The question of whether a parent can relocate with the children from the farm is typically a difficult one, as children usually spend significant time and have a close relationship with each of their parents. For these parents, if the relocation is many hours away, it is diffcult to imagine spending time with their children only during school holidays.

Extended family members' role in caring for the children and the children's relationship with them is also of relevance to how a relocation will affect the children.

Where there are few employment opportunities, social networks or suitable housing near the farm, the primary parent may see little option but to move. These are often the cases being fought through the courts as one parent feels the move will obstruct their relationship with the children and does not agree that life in a different town will be better for them.

There are also some clear-cut cases where a relocation is necessary and deemed by both parents to be in the best interests of the children - such as for medical or education reasons.

It's important to consider how relocating the children will impact on their relationship with their other parent and family members and ensure that any decision is made ultimately in their best interests.

This article first appeared in the Stock Journal on Thursday 17 May 2017. 

Practice Area: Farm Law

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