Moving with a child after divorce (also called child mobility or relocation) is a complex issue. What if the other parent doesn’t want you to move? What are your responsibilities in the process? This post addresses common questions about child mobility and Alberta law.

Child Mobility & the Divorce Act

There is no provincial legislation in Alberta that governs moving with your child after a divorce, so Alberta courts refer to the Canadian Divorce Act which includes laws about child relocation.

The Divorce Act defines “relocation” as a move that’s likely to have a significant impact on the child’s relationship with someone who has (or is applying for) parenting time, decision-making responsibility, or contact.

What Are The Requirements For A Parent Moving With Their Child?

A parent who wants to relocate with their child must provide 60 days’ written notice to the non-moving parent or anyone with decision-making responsibility for the child. This notice must include the new address, the date of the proposed move, and proposed new parenting and contact arrangements.

The non-moving parent can either accept the relocation or challenge it in court within those 60 days. If the matter goes to court, the case is decided based on the best interests of the child.

A move that’s in the best interests of the parent is not automatically in the best interests of the child.

The parent who wants to relocate with the child should expect to offer convincing reasons why the move is in the child’s best interests.

It’s never a good idea to move without the permission of the court, even if the court has granted you full custody. If the other parent tells the court about your relocation with the child, it could reflect negatively on you. It’s best to have a lawyer review any custody orders or family law decisions for your family to ensure that a move is not a breach of any laws.

How Are The Best Interests Of The Child Determined In Alberta?

Alberta courts use the following factors to determine the best interests of the child:

  • Reasons for relocating
  • Impact moving will have on the child
  • Amount of time the child spends with each parent (or person with parenting time or a pending application for a parenting order)
  • The level of involvement each parent has in the child’s life
  • The intention of the moving parent to comply with the notice requirements of the Divorce Act
  • Any legal order, arbitral award, or agreement that specifies the geographic area in which the child is to live
  • The reasonableness of the moving parent’s proposal, as it relates to parenting time, decision-making, and contact, among other things
  • Compliance of all parties with their obligations under family law

How Do I Make The Case To Move With My Child?

The Divorce Act specifies that the burden of proof that a move is in the child’s best interests is on the relocating parent. Provide the court with as much information as possible to prove that relocation is in your child’s best interests. Examples of helpful information include:

  • Income
  • Employment opportunities at the new location
  • Schooling and/or childcare at the new location
  • Amenities at the new location
  • Support system, such as extended family
  • The child’s wishes
  • Psychological assessment

Child Mobility & The Other Parent

The best course of action if you want to move with your child after a divorce is to talk to the other parent first. Let them know about the move and give them an opportunity to think about it and respond.

It’s normal for the other parent to be concerned about not being able to see or contact the child. Initially, they may feel like you’re taking their child away from them. Involving them in this process can minimize their fears.

Negotiating a new child custody arrangement is important. It’s best if you can agree on a plan together, including the travel costs involved in the child visiting the non-moving parent.

A legally binding agreement can set everyone’s mind at ease about the move. Even if you and the other parent can agree on parenting and custody arrangements, having the plan in writing solidifies the plan and can make the other parent more comfortable.

The moving parent should consider extending some goodwill to the non-moving parent. When the court grants child mobility, the non-moving parent is often given certain concessions or accommodations to maximize access, such as extended holiday visitation. Also, if travel costs for visitation will be significant, the courts may reduce child support payments to compensate.

Hire a Family Lawyer Before Moving With Your Child

Moving with your child after a divorce is a complex issue. Even if you have permission from the court and you agree with the other parent, it’s best to hire a family law attorney before you move. The best interests of your child, including your own relationship with your child, are too valuable to risk any missteps.

Every situation is unique, so the Alberta courts examine each case individually. Have a family law attorney review your case and help you understand your rights and what they mean specifically for your situation.

Before you move, have a lawyer amend your child custody agreement or get a new order put in place that reflects your new situation after relocation. This will protect you and your child and avoid any future legal battles.

Contact the family law attorneys at Getz Collins and Associates for help or advice about moving with your child after a divorce in Alberta.