Resources & Insights

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Relocating With Your Children

If you have children and have separated from your former spouse, then you know that life changes.  Sometimes, the change is that you or your former spouse move far enough away that the parenting arrangement in your separation agreement or court order will no longer work and needs to be changed.  This can be one of the most difficult issues to resolve because the choices are often binary in nature.  This blog will summarize the considerations and steps involved in resolving this legal dilemma.

As with all parenting issues in Ontario family law, the key issue is to consider what is in your child’s best interests.  This is about your child and what’s best for your child or children.  We need to consider how the move will impact your child, including education, relationships with friends and family, changes in opportunities, what your child thinks of the move and overall quality of life.  Another key factor in determining whether you will be able to move with your child is who is considered to be the primary caregiver of your child.  If you are the primary caregiver then the other parent must show that the move is not in your child’s best interests.  If you have a shared parenting arrangement, then you must show that the move is in your best interests.  Sometimes, this difference can determine whether your child will be able to move with you or will remain in the care of the parent who stays behind.

Recent changes to Ontario law require that you communicate with the other parent well before you move – at least 60 days.  Formal notice is required for you to be able to try and get that parent’s consent to the move and to allow both of you to work through the impact of the move in an organized way.  There is a form to provide details of the move but, in any event, the notice must include particulars of the relocation including when you’re moving, where you’re moving to, and your proposal for the new parenting arrangements.

Having a parenting plan is critical.  Whether you’re seeking the agreement of the other parent or a judge, that person must be able to imagine that the proposed move is best for your child.  You can do this with thoughtful details as part of a parenting plan.

The decision to relocate to a new community with your child can be complex and it’s important to seek legal advice early in the process. A family law lawyer can provide guidance on your specific situation, helping you understand your rights, responsibilities, and the potential outcomes of your proposed move.

You should also know that our court system can be very slow.  You might get a judge’s attention to your matter for a couple hours and if you can’t resolve this with the other parent then the trial won’t be for a year from when you decide to move.  Mediation and arbitration can be constructive alternatives to resolve relocation disputes.

Written by David Harris-Lowe