The impact of relocation on a child's relationship with a parent

Keeley & Ness [2017] FCCA 644 is a recent Federal Circuit Court case concerning a mother’s application to relocate with her 7-year old son to Queensland, which was opposed by the father. The mother wanted to relocate as she was experiencing financial difficulties and had a lack of family and social support in Canberra.

The Court made Orders preventing the mother from moving the child outside of Canberra, on the basis that the father-son relationship was a meaningful one. The father had been a consistent and significant person in the child’s life, and was heavily involved in the child’s school and hobbies. The father had also fulfilled his duties as a parent by providing the mother with financial support which exceeded his child support obligations. However, the father-son relationship had some difficulties, and it was unlikely that the father would be able to improve the relationship if the child moved to Queensland.  

The Court was sceptical of the mother’s commitment to support the father’s relationship with the child, given that the mother had not involved the father in major decision making which impacted the child, such as his schooling. The mother’s proposal for the child to spend time with the father if the relocation was granted, was viewed to be unrealistic and not reasonably practicable. This was due to the expenses associated with travelling between Canberra and Queensland, particularly in circumstances where the father operated his own business in Canberra and was expecting a child with his new partner.

The Court considered the mother to be in a position to increase her work hours whilst pursuing employment and educational opportunities, which would likely lead to her developing more support networks in Canberra. Meanwhile, the father’s proposal to spend time with the child in Canberra was found to be in the child’s best interests as it allowed the child to develop a stronger relationship with his father, and establish a relationship with his new sibling. 

The Court made Orders that the child remain living with the mother in Canberra, and to spend time with the father every second weekend and each Wednesday evening. The father was required to attend counselling and complete a parenting course to improve his parenting strategies and his relationship with the child.