In a recent case a man met a woman who had moved to Australia temporarily from Belgium. They fell in love quickly and shortly had a child together. The father had lived in Australia his entire life, whereas the mother had lived in Belgium her whole life, and all her family were still situated there. The mother worked full time as a professional for an international firm.
Following the birth of the child the relationship became strained and after a couple of brief separations the mother permanently left the father before the child’s first birthday. The mother as the primary caregiver proposed moving to Belgium with the child. She argued that she would be able to take better care of the child financially and have more family support. The mother offered that she and her child travel to Australia and that she pay half of the father's return flights to Belgium, three times a year. The father was outraged at this proposal and took the matter to the Family Court.
The Court heard evidence that the relocation would cause strain between the father and his son’s relationship. Even the mother admitted that the relationship between the father and son was more like that of a “favourite uncle”. Expert evidence was given by a psychologist who said that until the child turned 8 or 9 it was in their best interest to have regular in-person contact with both parents. The Court agreed and ordered that the mother could not relocate to Belgium for at least three years!
This case shows that Family Court’s priority is to make decisions in the best interests of the child. In this case, despite inconveniences for the mother, it was decided that it was in the best interest of the child to remain in Australia.