Location, Location, Location: The Shifting Law of New Zealand.

Moving to a new city, or even country can be an exciting new chapter in your life. However, if you have children with another person then both of you are obliged to consult (and cooperate) in making decisions about where your children will live. If negotiation (or mediation) doesn’t land you both on the same page, you can ask the Family Court to intervene.

The Family Court considers a number of factors in making “relocation” decisions, including:

-          The child’s age and stage of development

-          The child’s views

-          The child’s relationship with both parents;

-          The parents’ relationship with each other;

-          The care arrangements following the proposed move – in particular;

      • The distance between the parents’ homes
      • How long it would take (and how much it would cost) to travel between the parents’ homes
      • The financial resources of each parent

-          The reasons for the proposed move; and

-          The comparative advantages and disadvantages of going over staying.

Any decisions made by the Family Court in relocation disputes are guided by the welfare principle. The welfare principle requires that the welfare and best interests of the particular child in their particular circumstances must remain the first and paramount consideration.

What do I do if my child is being moved within New Zealand?

-          When your child’s other parent wants to move your child elsewhere within New Zealand, you can apply for a guardianship direction (and/ or a Parenting Order) from the Family Court to prevent the relocation.

-          If your child has already been moved without your consent, you may also be able to apply for their prompt return via a Warrant to Enforce.

What do I do if my child is being moved internationally?

If your child’s other parent intends on moving your child to another country without your consent, the Family Court has a variety of powers to prevent that child being taken out of New Zealand, including:

-          Ordering the child not be removed from New Zealand;

-          Ordering any passports or travel tickets of the child be surrendered to the Court; or

-          Registering an Interpol Border Alert, to prevent the child from boarding any international flight.

If your child has already been removed from New Zealand without your consent, you may be able to bring them back under “the Hague Convention”. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction is an international agreement between a number of countries. It aims to make sure that children who are taken or kept overseas are returned as quickly as possible to the country in which they usually live.  The Hague Convention assumes that the Courts in the country where the child usually lives are best able to make decisions about the child

Relocation disputes within the Family Court often involve a fine balance between living one’s life as one sees fit, and enabling children to live their best lives in the places best suited to them. Call one of our expert family law team members if you wish to discuss relocation issues further.

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