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What Can You Do If Your Ex-Partner Moves Away With Your Children?

It’s perhaps a parent’s worst nightmare. Your ex-partner is your children’s custodial parent. You go for your scheduled visit with your children, only to find that they and your ex-partner are no longer live in their home. Another family lives there instead, and they do not have a forwarding address for your ex-partner. You have no idea where they might have gone.

You are contacting the police when your ex-partner contacts you. They have relocated to another province. Your ex-partner has better employment there. They did not ask you for permission to move because you could refuse to allow them to move with the children.

Can your ex legally do this? Have you any legal recourse to reverse the relocation of your children?

Parental Relocation Decision-Making

You are still a guardian of your children, even though your ex is their custodial parent. Ideally, both parents should make major decisions about their children’s lives together, especially about where the children are living. This is especially true if there is a parenting agreement or court order.

Custodial parents can relocate with the children, but they are expected to consult the other parent about this decision. Often the two parents can reach agreement about a proposed move, especially if the move is nearby or only to another city. Perhaps the non-custodial parent can have the children for major holidays or for extended time during summer vacation. If the two of you can’t agree, a mediator might be able to help the two of you to broker an agreement.

In some cases, the custodial parent relocates first and seeks permission later. They do this because they believe that the non-custodial parent will refuse permission for the relocation.

When this happens, you, as the non-custodial parent, must seek the assistance of experienced family law lawyers. As you were unaware of the relocation, you would likely apply to the court for an order to return the children. The court would probably grant this order except in very rare circumstances, as custodial parents could be seen as having abducted the children.

Resolving The Relocation Issue

The order for the children’s return would not resolve the issue permanently. You could apply to the court for an order to transfer the children’s primary residence to you from your ex-partner. Simultaneously, your ex-partner could apply for an order allowing them to relocate with the children.

The court looks at what is in the children's best interest when reaching a decision. It would consider several factors when deciding:

  • What is the existing parenting relationship between the children and each of their parents?
  • What plans does each partner have to ensure that contact between the children and the ex-partner happens, and what efforts are each of you willing to undertake to make sure this contact happens?
  • What do your older children or teenage children think of the move?
  • Why the current custodial parent wants to move. Are they moving for a better employment opportunity or for increased family support from parents and siblings?
  • What effect will it have on the children if they move to the ex-partner’s home?
  • If the current custodial parent spent the most time with the children, what will happen if the non-custodial parent becomes the primary caregiver?
  • How disrupted will the children’s lives be if they move back after having already been moved once?

Courts decide each case based on the specific situation.

A non-custodial parent who discovers their ex-partner has relocated with their children without consulting with them must contact a family law lawyer immediately to resolve the situation.

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