Relocation and the indissolubility of parenthood


Relocation disputes are the San Andreas Fault of family law. They reflect the tension between the freedom of people as adults to leave a relationship and begin a new life for themselves, and the harsh reality that while marriages (and other relationships) may be dissoluble, parenthood is not. Children usually benefit from a close and continuing relationship with a non-resident parent who loves them and wants to be involved in their lives. Maintaining that connection, if one parent moves a long way from the other is difficult.
This paper is based upon the findings of a five-year prospective longitudinal study of relocation disputes in Australia, involving 80 parents and 33 children. It is argued that decision-making in relocation cases must be resolutely child-centered. It cannot be based upon adults’ rights. The adjudication of relocation disputes should involve asking three fundamental questions. First, how close is the relationship between the non-resident parent and the child and how important is that relationship developmentally to the child? Second, if the relocation is to be permitted, how viable are the proposals for contact with the non-resident parent? Third, if the relationship between the child and the non-resident parent is developmentally important to the child and is likely to be diminished if the move is allowed, then a) what are the viable alternatives to the parents living a long distance apart? b) is a move with the primary caregiver the least detrimental alternative?


Prof. Patrick Parkinson
University of Sydney, Australia

Patrick Parkinson is a professor of law at the University of Sydney, Australia, and was President of the International Society of Family Law from 2011-2014. He has had a major role in the development of legislation and practice in family law and child protection in Australia. He served from 2004-2007 as Chairperson of the Family Law Council, an advisory body to the federal Attorney-General, and also chaired a review of the Child Support Scheme in 2004-05 which led to the enactment of major changes to the Child Support Scheme. He was also Chairperson of a major review of the state law concerning child protection which led to the enactment of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. In 2004, he was instrumental in persuading the Australian Prime Minister of the time, John Howard, to invest in a national network of Family Relationship Centers, offering mediation and other services to parents going through separation. These have had a major role in assisting parents to resolve parenting issues and to stay out of court.

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