In a previous weblog I explained that if you and your ex-partner have joint custody of your children, you cannot just move house and take them with you. Moving abroad with the children without the permission of your ex-partner is considered to be child abduction, with all associated consequences. A move within the national borders without the permission of your ex-partner is also not permitted. You will first have to go to court to get permission if your ex-partner refuses.
Permission is required for parents who have joint custody of their children. Custody means all the rights and obligations which parents have in respect of their children. Custody indicates control and therefore also decision-making powers to determine where a child lives. Parents with joint custody have equal control over the place of residence of the child. If a parent nevertheless moves without the permission of the other parent, he or she is immediately 1-0 down in the ensuing court proceedings. Taking the law in one’s own hands is not appreciated. This parent must have extremely good reasons for the court not to reverse the move. This of course depends on the age of the children, the time they have already been living in the new location and many other factors.
If you have sole custody of your child, you in principle do not need the permission of your ex-partner to move with your child. This principle has lately been reconsidered by the court. An example of this is the ruling of the judge in interlocutory proceedings of the Central Netherlands District Court of 15 October 2014 (not published). The Mother had sole custody, to the exclusion of the father. For half the time their son lived with the father. Mother moved house without the father’s permission. Because of the distance, co-parenting was impossible. In interlocutory proceedings, the court determined that despite the mother having sole custody, she was not at liberty to move with the son of the parties without the permission of the father. Father and son always had a good relationship and always lived as a family unit. The interest of the father had been unacceptably compromised by the move. The court was of the view that the interest of the son of the parties was served by him staying in his old, familiar environment. The mother had already moved. This meant that the court entrusted the son of the parties for the time being to the father pending a final decision on the place of residence of the son.
3 conclusions can be drawn from this ruling:
- Even if you have sole custody, this does not always mean that you can move with your child without the permission of your ex-partner.
- If you move with your child without the permission of your ex-partner, you must take into account that this will not necessarily be retroactively approved by the court. Judges are not keen on people taking the law into their own hands.
- You must also be aware that in that case the court may determine that the place of residence of your child will be with your ex-partner if he or she has requested this.