Custody Conundrum: When is it Okay to Move with a Child?

If you are separated or divorced parent with primary custody of a child, then you have the legal right to make many important decisions that affect the child’s life, with limited input from the other parent.

One of these questions might be a unilateral decision to move away with the child – often to accept a new job or to pursue a new relationship.   Since such a move may result in the other, non-custodial parent’s access to the child becoming limited, the determination of whether it should be allowed is never an easy one, and must often be answered by a court.

Fortunately, in a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada called Gordon v. Goertz, the court identified a number of specific factors that go into the decision of whether such a potential move would be in a child’s best interest.  These factors are:

  • the existing custody arrangement and relationship between the child and the custodial parent;
  • the existing access arrangement and the relationship between the child and the access parent;
  • the desirability of maximizing contact between the child and both parents;
  • the views of the child;
  • the custodial parent’s reason for moving – but only in the exceptional case where it is relevant to that parent’s ability to meet the needs of the child;
  • disruption to the child of a change in custody; and
  • disruption to the child that will arise from removal from family, schools, and the community he or she has come to know.

The court also observed: 

“[i]n the end, the importance of the child remaining with the parent to whose custody it has become accustomed in the new location must be weighed against the continuance of full contact with the child’s access parent, its extended family and its community.”

No two circumstances are alike, and the final determination will result from a balancing of all these factors.  If you are considering a move with your child that may give rise to conflict with the child’s other parent, give us a call.  We can give you tailored legal advice which will help understand your rights and obligations.

Shulman Law Firm is a Toronto-area firm of experienced Family Lawyers who can provide practical advice and effective representation relating to the steps and processes involved in separating and getting divorced in Ontario.   Contact us to set up a free consultation.

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