Relationships / Family

Can I Move Overseas … and Take My Child With Me?

Paul and Jane have been married for four years and have a young family. Paul met Jane on a holiday in Australia. Six months later Jane moved to New Zealand and they married soon after. They were blessed with two children - Sam and Jessica - and life was great for a while, until Paul started working longer hours. Coming home tired and irritable, he did very little to help Jane with the children and it wasn't long before he told Jane he was leaving her for another woman. Heartbroken and desperate Jane decided to move Sam and Jessica to Australia so they could be with her family. When she told Paul about her plans, he was furious and said she could leave but the children would have to stay in New Zealand with him and his new partner.

Like Paul and Jane's situation, separating from your partner can be an incredibly stressful time especially when children are involved. Things can become particularly difficult when one partner wants to move overseas and take the child/children with them.

Janice Harland, partner at Brookfields Lawyers, comments: "The most important thing to remember when making decisions about children in a separation is to put yourself in their shoes, and ask if it's the best possible decision for them. Consider the following: How old is your child and what are their emotional needs? What are the reasons for moving? Will your child be safe? What are the advantages and disadvantages to your child if they were to move or remain in New Zealand? How will your child stay in touch with the parent and family remaining in New Zealand? Is your child happy to move? It is also important to contact a lawyer before any decisions are made, because they will act in your best interests and handle all communication with your partner if the situation is, or turns, sour."

"As a last resort if you are unable to agree on what is right for your child you may, under the Care of Children Act 2004, apply to the Court for a decision concerning your guardianship rights. When it comes to the issue of where a child lives, the first and most important consideration for the Court will be the child's welfare and best interests, which again includes (amongst others) the reasons for moving, the child's safety, the emotional needs and age of the child, how family links in New Zealand will be maintained and so on", comments Harland.

Any parent wishing to move overseas should be able to put forward proposals for how the child's culture, religion and most importantly, how the child's relationships with the parent and other family remaining in New Zealand can be preserved and strengthened. These proposals should include: How you plan to maintain ongoing contact, the return and use of photographs, and positive conversation about the parent in New Zealand and their family. Every application will be decided on an individual basis with emphasis placed on the welfare of the child. The decision will not be a result of what you or your partner want, but will be based ultimately on the child's best interests.

"The best advice that can be given to parents who find themselves in this situation is to think about the child first and do what is best for them," comments Harland

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The contents of this publication are general in nature and are not intended to serve as a substitute for legal advice on a specific matter. In the absence of such advice no responsibility is accepted by Brookfields for reliance on any of the information provided in this publication.


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