Caroline Overington | October 29, 2009
THE mother of a three-year-old girl has been refused permission to move from Sydney to Queensland to be with a younger lover she met on the internet.
The father of the child argued against the move, saying it would seriously disrupt his relationship with the child.
The decision is a win for fathers who say that old custody laws too often enabled mothers to relocate after divorce, rupturing relationships between children and their dads. Two academic studies have shown that relocation has become more difficult under the shared parenting laws introduced by the Howard government in 2006.
Those laws are now under review.
The family law division of the Federal Magistrates Court, sitting in Newcastle, found that under shared parenting laws, the child was entitled to stay close to her father.
It dismissed the mother's argument that she would be "happier" in Queensland, living with her new lover. A mother's freedom of movement, and her right to start a new life after divorce, previously carried great weight in court.
The mother in the case, known as Walton and Dunham, wanted to relocate the child from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast to be with a new, younger lover described in court documents as "about 25". She is older, with a 10-year-old son besides the three-year-old girl. Her age wasn't given.
She separated from the father of the girl in October last year. Since separation, the parents have lived close to each other in Sydney, and the girl has spent "regular time" with her father.
In November last year, the mother applied to the Family Court, seeking permission to relocate to Queensland. She said she had met a new man on the internet a month earlier, and wanted to be with him.
Federal magistrate Janet Terry found the child had a "meaningful relationship" with both parents in Sydney, where she was able to "see her father regularly". If the mother was allowed to move, that contact would "inevitably diminish".
It would make the father a "holiday parent" who couldn't have any involvement with his daughter on school days. Ms Terry said: "The father is a good parent who is keen to be involved with (the child) on a regular basis. It would be a significant loss for (her) if she moved."
The court said there was no guarantee the new relationship would work out. The woman has never lived with the man, and has visited him only once.
"In my view, the child's interests will be best served by dismissing the mother's application to relocate from Sydney, to enable the girl to spend regular time with her father in Sydney," Ms Terry said.