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Relocation issues

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Apologies in advance for the essay. This is all new to me so I have a lot of questions and very little knowledge of legal processes involved.

Background: I separated from my husband just over a year ago. We currently reside in the same town and he has our children 3 nights a week. Hours a week that he is responsible for them is averaged over the fortnightly pattern at 81.5hr out of 168. I am responsible for getting them to and from daycare and school. I am solely responsible for daycare fees for one of our children, and after school care fees for the other. He is assessed at a required payment of $150 to me per week for their care. I receive $90 of that in the form of him paying car payments, and the other $60 is unpaid. He works fulltime. I am undertaking an education degree part time and currently do not work, therefore receive single parenting payments and family tax benefits.

The issue:

1. I want to relocate myself and the children to a town 200km away for various reasons. My parents are there, so added support. There is a university I can attend on campus which will reduce the length of my degree and have me earning better to provide for my children sooner. My son has been assessed as gifted and talented and the small regional town we live in can not offer him the same schooling opportunities. There are better part time job opportunities for me there which will obviously help me provide a better living standard for my children. (I have other reasons too, the lack of opportunity here for them culturally and in regard to organised sport etc, but those are the main ones.) My husband is not in agreement with this. I have outlined a basic plan to ensure he remains a large part of the childrens lives. Essentially they would reside with me during the week and I would continue to be responsible for all schooling, childcare and extracurricular costs and duties. He would be able to have them each weekend (if that is what he wants) and up to 75% of school holidays on the proviso that if he NEEDS me to keep them with me at certain times for whatever reasons, I am happy to comply.

The questions:

1. I've been told he can legally file a form to prevent me from relocating. Is this the case and if so, is there anything I can do to avoid having to comply?

2. I'm aware that the first step in resolution is mediation, and am arranging that currently, but if it is not resolved through mediation….then can I relocate if he has not filed for Consent or Parenting orders? What concerns me with this one is that legally I may be able to relocate, but that if the issue goes to court it may be detrimental to my case….

3. If mediation leaves the issue unresolved, and he has NOT applied for Consent or Parenting orders, do I then have to initiate that process and have them approved in court before I can move?

4. What kind of things influence the courts decision on these matters?

  • Is the fact that he refuses to acknowledge or act on the knowledge that our son is gifted going to count for anything?
  • Is the fact that he has x amount in unpaid child support going to affect his case?
  • Is the fact that at this point he has never washed the childrens hair or cut fingernails etc even going to be discussed in court and if so, will it count for anything?
  • Will the court consider where the children WANT to live (I have discussed with both of my children the pros and cons of relocating and have told them that if they decide they'd prefer to remain here, I will stay and that our life will still be perfectly fine. I have told them I believe it is best for us to move but I have also outlined [without bias] their fathers basic reasons as to why he doesn't want this to happen and so on - my youngest doesn't really understand but my eldest does and is aware that from MY side of this, his choice counts for more than what is convenient/ideal for me). 
He is not an unfit father, I just believe that the relocation will be hugely beneficial for my childrens lives and I would never allow anything to destroy the bond they have with him.

It's a very frustrating time for me, as I have done MANY things to help him ensure involvement and appropriate care for the children since we separated and he is now behaving as if my motives for the relocation are purely selfish and will detrimentally affect our children. It was only this week that I went to his house, divided ALL of the childrens clothes that we both had into equal proportions so that both children had everything they needed at each house and I don't have to send clothes with them each time I drop them to him, previous to that I was sending clothing and shoes etc each time and often not receiving them back and not having the things they needed. I have been vigilant in advising him of all the childrens extracurricular activities that are relevant to him (i.e events occurring during his time with them, school photos and reports, our sons Gifted workshops and so on). I advise him of all small things that are going on at my house (behavioural concerns, health issues…even minor ones, things the children are excited about…heaps of random information a dad should know about his children). I am very upset at the prospect that despite all I have done, and all I would do to ensure a continued solid relationship between my children and their father, it may be within his power to force me to stay here.

Okay, please be honest in your opinions, I'm posting here seeking genuine advice. Thanks in advance.

So you want to relocate

Strife, I think you are going to get some replies that you may not wish to hear.You want to move 200km away, AND you have already discussed this with the children. That was not a wise thing to do. It is up to the parents to decide what to do, and what is in the best interest of the children. Your ex could, if he wish, accuse you of trying to align the children to your idea. Not knowing the ages of your children, and the fact that you say one is too young to understand, then why did you do it? These are not decisions that children should be making, and they will feel guilty whatever the outcome.You also expect the children to go from seeing the children 6 nights a fortnight down to 4 at most. Given the distance, and that he works full time, I surmise that if he doesn't finish work until 5pm, travels 2 hours (at least) to your place and then the 2 hours back, then the children wouldn't get to his house until 9pm. Even if you met half way, the children wouldn't get to his house until at least 7pm. And they would have at least 4 hours, if not more, in a car each and every weekend.

And be advised that child support is a totally separate issue to the time that children spend with a parent. Do not fall into the trap of trying to link the two. If you are having issues about child support, then you need to follow that up with the Child Support Agency. And yes, many of us are aware that a reduction in time with one parent can mean that more money is paid to the other parent. Child support covers school costs, extracurricular, childcare, that is why it is paid. It also covers general medical and dental. That is the father's way of providing support to the children. It goes towards the general day to day costs of maintaining a child. Don't be lulled into thinking that he has to pay half of school fees, extracurricular, medical, dental etc on top of child support. Both parents are supposed to be financially responsible for maintaining the children. The daycare fees and after school fees, are they incurred on your time with the children? If so, then those fees are your responsibility. You say that you don't work, so I do not understand why you would need to utilise after school care.

You say that he has the power to make you stay. He does not. Whether you stay or go is your choice. His concern is where the children will be living. Some may even suggest, that you leave the children with him, rather than uprooting them from all that they know, their school and their friends. How would you feel about that? Think hard about it as this is what you are asking of him.There is nothing to stop you from moving, just as there is nothing to stop him from lodging paperwork with the courts, to have the children returned to where they currently live.

And not washing a child's hair or cutting their nails, is it actually causing harm to the children? Does it affect their abilities to participate in school/daycare? Not worth it in my opinion to be a battle to die on the hill for. As an aside, my stepson lives with him mum during the week, and spends most weekends with us. My husband cuts his nails every weekend. Do you think that we should not send him back to his mother because she doesn't cut his nails? This may be an issue that you could discuss in mediation ( especially if you have already raised it with him), not the courts.

Think about this - if you and he were still married, would you still be living in the culturally lacking, opportunity lacking town? Or had you talked about moving to the "big smoke" before you separated?If you still want to relocate, then it would be best to attempt mediation. And go from there. Who knows what may happen. Give it a go first. And then, if it is not 'successful', come back.
I would strongly caution against the "every weekend, 75% of holidays" option that you are looking at.

Children need to have time - particularly as they age - to spend with their friends and develop a sense of community. They will want to play sports, attend birthday parties, enjoy their own birthdays at home with their friends as well as practically, be present to go shopping for school uniforms and supplies. They also deserve to have a decent relationship and quality time with BOTH parents.

Moving away and offering your ex every weekend and 75% care in holidays is setting him up for failure going forward.

There are many ways to supply opportunities both cultural and educational to children in rural areas. I live rurally - its not that hard.
Like Boots, I don't understand why, if you aren't working, your children are in day care or after school care. This is money that you could use to provide educational or cultural activities to your children during your time with them.

I agree with Boots - you need to be clear about the separation between CS and care, and if you feel that your ex is not meeting his CS obligations then pursue that through CSA.

Speaking to your children about care issues is a huge no-no. You need to keep your own counsel on these matters and keep their best interests in mind.

The reasons that you are giving are not compelling, and the loss of a primary relationship with a parent is likely to be viewed as more important than any of the benefits you've floated.

The nails and hair thing is a red herring - if you have always done it, and presumably you don't let the kids hair and nails get totally feral before you do it, then he would have no cause to do those things. Parents don't get their kids hair cut or cut their kids nails if the other parent has already done it, just to prove they are a good parent too. That would be ridiculous.

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