International Research Evidence on Relocation: Past, Present, and Future
Taylor, Nicola; Freeman, Marilyn
The modern world is characterized by an increasingly mobile population as family members transfer or relocate nationally and internationally to pursue new career or lifestyle opportunities. It is, of course, not uncommon for separated parents to have to move in the aftermath of their relationship breakdown as they reestablish themselves in separate households and negotiate their children's care and contact arrangements. Where, how ever, the proposed relocation by the resident parent involves moving such a distance from the nonresident parent that visits become problematic, the potential for a major dispute exists. This is particularly so when there has been a pattern of frequent contact (or shared care) and the nonresident parent refuses to acquiesce in the move and is unwilling to consent to changes in the contact arrangements (for example, extended school holiday visits). While these cases can be very difficult to resolve by agreement, some separated parents are able to negotiate the relocation without seeking recourse to the legal system. When ex-partners are unable to reach agreement, an application to the court for permission for one of them to move with the child(ren) will be required. These applications often attract strong opposition from the parent who will be left behind. This article reviews the international research evidence pertaining to relocation. Two general points can be briefly stated at the outset. First, while there is "very substantial research literature on the effects of residential mobility on children of divorce," this evidence has not yet been fully absorbed into the examination of the relocation issue in the academic and judicial arenas. Second, the findings of the research are mixed, with some studies revealing beneficial effects from relocation, and others emphasizing detrimental or harmful outcomes for children and young people. Overall, however, the empirical research findings indicate "heightened risk" when a child relocates, particularly if there have been prior moves and multiple changes in family structure. More recent research on the impact of residential moves on children and adolescents has demonstrated consistent negative effects on youngsters across all family structures (i.e., single never-married, separated, and divorced, stepfamily, married) when compared to children in comparable groups of parents who did not move. Predicting a child's adjustment to a (proposed) relocation requires a careful contextual assessment of the child and family circumstances. There are inherent difficulties in untangling relocation effects from children's adjustment to other significant family experiences (such as adversity, family discord, violence, loss and transition) that may have preceded any move. This demonstrates the urgent need for robust international research on the outcomes of residential mobility for children that takes better account of these variables in the relocation context, and provides more definitive guidance for parents and the courts. We believe it is critical to start considering relocation disputes within the broader context of interparental conflict more generally, rather than as a distinct phenomenon. A credible body of research has established that children of all ages are adversely affected by conflict between parents that is frequent, intense, and poorly resolved. These features are especially prevalent in relocation cases and, therefore, need greater recognition for the risks they pose to children's development and well-being. We begin this article by reviewing the key points that emerge from research on geographic mobility in intact and separated families, and then examine empirical research evidence from the United States, Canada, Australia, England, and New Zealand on postseparation relocation disputes and adjudication trends in relocation case law.
Publisher: American Bar Association
Rights Statement: © 2010 American Bar Association
Keywords: relocation; moving away; international research evidence; intact and separated families; parental separation
Research Type: Journal Article
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