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Rhode Island Supreme Court Holds Mother Cannot Relocate Children to Australia

In a recent decision, the Rhode Island Supreme Court denied a mother’s relocation request. The couple was divorced, and the mother wanted to move with the couple’s four children to Australia. However, the children’s father was staying in Rhode Island. If you are a divorced parent who wants to relocate with your children, or your ex is trying to relocate with the children and you do not want them to move, you should contact a skilled Rhode Island Family Court attorney to help you make your case to the judge.

Facts of the Case

The mother is a citizen of Australia and a legal permanent resident in the United States. The father is a citizen of the United States, and the children have dual citizenship. The parties were married in Australia, but currently live in Rhode Island. After the divorce, the children lived with the mother, but the father had frequent visitation.

The mother requested that the court allow her to relocate with the children to Australia. She testified that she wanted to move there to be closer to her family, to get more education, and have better job prospects. She proposed that the children could visit their father in Rhode Island during school breaks and he was welcome to visit them in Australia whenever he wanted. The father objected to the proposed move because it would interfere with his ability to see the children on a regular basis. While the father had some problems in the past with alcohol that disrupted his relationships with the children, he had been sober for years and was working on mending his relationship with the kids.

Best Interests of the Child

When family courts address relocation cases like this one, the standard they use is “the best interests of the child.” On this review, the Rhode Island Supreme Court can only overturn the family court ruling if they find that the family court judge abused their discretion, the outcome was based on misconstrued facts, or the outcome was clearly wrong. None of those factors applied in this case.

When deciding whether to allow relocation, there are many factors the court will look at to make the determination of whether the relocation is in the best interests of the children. Some of the factors that the court will look at include: the relationship between the parents and the children, the likelihood that the relocation will improve the quality of life for the children and parents, the impact of the relocation on the children, and the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the children and the non-relocating parent. Courts will also look at any other factor they find relevant, including the wishes of the children if they are old enough to express a preference.

Here, the trial court judge denied the relocation. The judge was concerned that the move would essentially sever the relationship between the father and his children. The costs of traveling to Australia are significant, and neither party in this case has a lot of money. Further, the judge was worried that the mother would take advantage of the geographic separation to further alienate the father, as the former couple had a very acrimonious relationship. The Appeals Court judges found no reversible error in the trial court judge’s analysis sufficient to overturn the decision. Thus, the denial of the mother’s relocation petition was upheld.

Contact an Experienced Rhode Island Family Law Attorney Today!

If your kids live with you and you want to move a significant distance, you may need approval of the family court. The knowledgeable family law attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC, can help make your case to the judge as persuasively as possible. Call (401) 300-4055 or use the form on this web site to contact us today for a consultation!

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