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NSW Ex Partner Relocating - What is a Reasonable Travel Time for Children?

Discussion in 'Family Law Forum' started by Lindastamps, 15 December 2015.

  1. Lindastamps

    Lindastamps Active Member

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    I have been the primary carer for my two children (now aged 13 and 10) since May 2009. My ex-husband moved from our area to about 45 minutes away at the end of 2010 and resides there with his new wife and child. We've been doing 50-50 on the travel arrangements - usually, he has the children at his home every second weekend.

    Now he has announced that he has bought a new house on the Mid-North Coast and starts a new job there at the beginning of January. He has requested to become the primary carer for the children and move them there. But they have spent their lives here and their community and friends are here. I'm not sure that relocating is the best thing for them at all. Plus of course, I'm not there either. My ex said that if I do not agree that it's time that the children live with him then he will take it to family court for custody of children.

    In the meantime, he does not want to see them any less than he does now and he said we will need to share the travel load on alternate weekends. This means a 4-hour trip each way. Once again, I am not sure this is best for them. They already miss a lot of events (birthday parties and such) on the weekends they are with their Dad, but now it will be more so.

    We are already in the Mediation process through relationships Australia to sort out a new parenting plan, as the old one has not been revised since 2009.

    My query relates to the distance... What is reasonable to expect the children to travel on alternate weekends? Is there a set distance at which the travel becomes unreasonable? I was going to suggest once a month visits and perhaps more time in the holidays to compensate, but so far this has not been well received.
     
  2. Sophea

    Sophea Well-Known Member

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    Hi Lindastamps,

    If this does go before a court their primary consideration will be the best interests of the children. This will incorporate the distance they have the travel, upheaval to their existing lives and any events that they will miss out on. Since the children are fairly old their preference may also be taken into account by the court.
     
  3. Lindastamps

    Lindastamps Active Member

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    Thanks, Sophea... I am hoping it doesn't go that far. I think he is threatening that because he knows I can't afford court costs. But I doubt he would want to pay that either. I agree totally it should be down to what is best for the kids. I have asked myself if they would be better off with their Father as he can certainly afford to give them more materially than I can. But I think there is much to be said for the things that money can't buy, and their lives here are not so bad.
     
  4. sammy01

    sammy01 Well-Known Member

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    I don't think he'll be successful in court with trying to remove the kids from you. I think it is all bluff. I'd tell him that he can also accept that you've got no obligation to travel any further because of his decision to move AND given the decision you think it best he only see the kids one weekend in 3.

    In short stand up for yourself.
     
    Sophea likes this.
  5. Lindastamps

    Lindastamps Active Member

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    Yep... think its time. It doesn't come easily to me, but I need to for all of us.
     
  6. AllForHer

    AllForHer Well-Known Member

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    The kids are old enough to likely have their views given at least some weight in court. Have they said they want to live with the father?
     
  7. Lindastamps

    Lindastamps Active Member

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    My son doesn't want to go in particular, he has a good group of school friends and is happy in a drama group. My daughter is worried about hurting her Father's feelings, but is a little more open to the prospect.
     
  8. AllForHer

    AllForHer Well-Known Member

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    Then I think he would be wasting his time going to court. The court would be reluctant to disrupt the status quo after six years, especially when the kids are not expressing any wish to live with their dad and both have developed roots in their communities. I would argue there would need to be some seriously compelling reasons to order a change of residency.

    A reasonable travel time for alternate weekends is one, maybe two hours each way since they're a bit older, but if we're talking four hours there and four hours back, that's a bit different. It sounds like the existing arrangements have worked reasonably well to now, so I assume the kids have a strong attachment to their father already, and I would argue that given their ages and provided you are supportive and encouraging of the kids' relationship with the father, it's unlikely their relationship with him will suffer if the time they spend with him is slightly reduced. What is likely, however, is that the kids will start to resent going to their father's house because of the travel time, if they're made to make that trip every second weekend. When the care arrangements are too complicated or too strenuous, kids will eventually start voting with their feet.

    I would suggest every third weekend instead of every second, or alternatively, one weekend a month, plus half school holidays in block time. If you want to sweeten the deal even more, you might consider offering all long weekends, one weekend around the father's birthday, and Father's Day, as well as a changeover point where you meet halfway.

    In a legal sense, the court would give a lot of weight to the tyranny of distance. I can't think of any case off the top of my head whereby the court has ordered alternate weekends where one parent has relocated a four-hour drive away. In relation to the older child, it is even quite common for the court to make orders that the child spends time with the other parent in accordance with the child's wishes.

    It might be worthwhile talking to RA about a child-inclusive mediation conference. The kids get to talk to a professional and express their views and those views are then communicated to the parents so they can take them into consideration when negotiating a new care arrangement.
     
  9. Lindastamps

    Lindastamps Active Member

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    Your thoughts are very much in line with what I am thinking as well. I think the 4 hour each way trip from Central Coast to Port Macquarie is going to be quite stressful on everyone, but mostly the kids. In particular my 10 year old was diagnosed with ADHD 2 years ago and is not the best traveller. I feel that the back and forth to Port Macquarie would be arduous to say the least.
     

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