Relocating with children after a divorce in B.C. is a complex matter that requires preplanning and considerable thought before acting.
Parental rights and responsibilities are highly valued in British Columbia’s family law system, so anything that could impinge upon them is carefully scrutinized.
If you are looking to relocate with your children, therefore, you will need to consider how the move will affect the other parent and other important people in the children’s life. As always, the standard used for decisions concerning children in B.C. is the children’s best interests.
Sorting out a relocation is challenging and costly legal disputes are common. It should not be attempted without first taking legal advice.
Learn More → Parenting After Separation in BC: 4 Tips for Success
Can I move with my children after divorce in BC?
Under the BC Family Law Act, a parent who wants to relocate must provide 60 days’ written notice to the other guardians and people who have contact with the children under an agreement or court order (such as a grandparent). The name of the proposed location of the move must be included in the notice.
The only exceptions to this rule are if either of the following applies:
- There is a risk of family violence, or
- There is no ongoing relationship between the child and the other guardian/person who has contact with the child by agreement or court order
In many cases, all parties are happy for the relocation to go ahead and there is no dispute. Parenting time is simply adjusted to account for the proposed changes. However, parents must tread very carefully and reduce the risk by following the rules to the letter.
A guardian may file an objection to the move with the B.C. courts. Then, a judge must consider the following factors among others:
- Whether the move is made in “good faith” (moves to punish the other parent or guardian are not acceptable)
- Whether there are reasonable and workable arrangements to preserve the relationship between the child and the other guardian.
- Whether adequate written notice was provided
If a person who has contact with a child by agreement or court order objects to the move, he or she can request a change to contact arrangements to ensure a continued relationship with the child, but cannot file an objection.
The only cases where a parent does not need to consider the impact of relocating with children on the other parent are:
- If he/she is the sole guardian of the children
- If he/she has sole custody
- If there is a written agreement or court order permitting him/her to move without requiring the other parent’s consent.
How to avoid relocation confrontations with your ex
It is best to avoid relocation confrontations with your ex-partner or ex-spouse by conforming to the rules regarding relocation — no matter how far you intend to move.
Cases involving relocation with children take up a lot of court time in B.C. and it is generally in the interests of all parties to avoid this time-consuming and expensive process.
Most court cases involve a proposed long-distance move, where the non-moving parent is concerned about how he or she will participate in the child’s upbringing. These cases can drag on for months or years.
It is best to address any issues by discussing them upfront rather than forcing the non-moving parent to file an objection in court. By providing at least the requisite 60 days’ written notice, you can prevent a potential court case.
Even if you have the legal right to move, you can avoid conflict by making your plans clear to any affected parties well in advance of the move. If concerns are expressed, you may be able to talk through them. Good communication is essential to avoid confrontations with your ex.
Will my application to relocate be successful?
The relocation of children can be prevented by the B.C. courts. Custodial rights do not inherently include the right to change a child’s place of residence and judges prefer stability to upheaval.
The likelihood of your relocation application being successful depends greatly on the child’s best interests, the custody arrangement, and the impact it has on the other parent.
If custody is joint or shared and no objection is filed, you have the legal right to move with the child. However, the non-moving parent also has the legal right to apply for a change in custody to prevent the child from being moved with the departing parent.
Once you provide notice to the non-moving parent, he/she must provide written notice of an objection within 30 days and apply to the court to prevent the move. If this happens, there will be a court hearing.
As the departing parent, you will be more likely to succeed with the proposed move if you can demonstrate the following:
- The proposed child relocation decision is made in good faith
- You have proposed reasonable and workable arrangements to preserve the relationship between the child and the child’s other guardian(s)/other key people in the child’s life
- Your reasons for relocation are relevant to your ability to meet the child’s needs
Mote that if continued access to the other parent cannot be provided, you must show that the other parent did not have a positive relationship with the child.
The best interests of the children are again the most important factor in such applications. A judge will be asked to make an informed prediction of what the best interests are based on the evidence provided during the relocation hearing(s).
Demonstrating “good faith” when relocating with a child in BC generally means showing the following:
- The proposed relocation is likely to enhance the general quality of life of the child
- The relocation will increase the emotional well-being or financial/educational opportunities of the child
- Adequate notice was provided to other interested parties
What are the best interests of a child in BC?
As with all cases involving children in B.C., the child’s best interests are considered more important than the rights and interests of the parents.
If a proposed relocation is found not to be in the best interests of the children, it will be refused.
The B.C. courts apportion more weight to the parent-child relationships over other competing interests in relocation decisions. So, generally, unless proven otherwise, the best interests of the children are taken to include regular contact with both parents.
If the relocation is likely to prevent regular contact with one parent, who objects to the relocation, the court will need compelling evidence that the relationship with the other parent is harmful to the child to approve the relocation.
How do you get started with moving a child?
Relocating with a child in B.C. can quickly become very complex and should not be attempted without a discussion about your legal right to move and the likelihood of success. Cases can become time-consuming and heart-breaking unless managed carefully.
The child relocation lawyers at Spectrum Family Law in Vancouver are used to defending the best interests of children in such applications and can help you make a case for relocation if that is what you decide to do.
To discuss any aspect of child relocation, speak with one of our lawyers during an initial consultation, and we can help you assess your options.
Our main hub for British Columbia is located in the heart of Vancouver. That said, we serve the entire province of BC. We have the infrastructure to work with any of our clients virtually — even the furthest regions of British Columbia.
We also have a dedicated intake form to help you get the ball rolling. Our intake team will review your specific case and advise you on the next steps to take as well as what to expect moving forward. That’s the best way to schedule an appointment
Our offices are generally open 8:30 a.m.—4:30 p.m., Mon—Fri.
Kasia was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she completed her Bachelor’s degree at the University of British Columbia. She went on to obtain her Juris Doctorate with Honours from Bond University in Australia.