AIFS study on relocation - Media Release of findings


A rough road to relocation

Media release - 15 February 2011

An analysis of all 190 Family Court relocation judgements that were handed down between 2002 and 2004 found 80 per cent of parents involved in these disputes had high conflict, abusive relationships involving allegations of family violence and prior court proceedings.

The study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and Australian National University found the vast majority of relocation disputes were the product of highly conflicted parental relationships rather than the single cause of conflict.

Most of the cases examined entailed moves of significant distance – either overseas or more than 1,000 kilometres from the other parent.

AIFS Senior Research Fellow, Dr Rae Kaspiew (who was on the research team with Associate Professors Juliet Behrens and Bruce Smyth from ANU) said the study revealed the complex nature of parental relationships involved in relocation disputes in the Family Court of Australia.

"About 80 per cent of relationships in the study could be described as high-conflict or abusive with allegations of violence being raised in nearly 70 per cent of cases," she said.

"In 69 per cent of cases there had been prior court proceedings with half of these requiring a court-determined outcome."

Interviews with 38 parents who had been involved in litigated relocation cases prior to the 2006 family law reforms were also conducted as part of the study.

Dr Kaspiew said the study also revealed the reasons for relocation and the factors associated with the proposed move being approved or rejected.

"The study of judgments showed the main reasons for a parent wanting to relocate were to be closer to family support, to be with a new partner or to pursue work opportunities. But our interviews with parents showed that often, there were several complex reasons for relocation, including wanting to escape conflict with the other parent," she said.

"In 75 per cent of cases parents seeking to return to their birthplace were successful. The application to relocate was less likely to be successful if the non-primary care parent was heavily involved with their children in shared care arrangements.

"The credibility of evidence given by either parent was also a factor in the success of the case.

"In a large number of cases the judge accepted the credibility of both parents. However, a negative assessment of credibility was strongly associated with an adverse outcome for that parent."

Other findings of the judgement study include:

88% of parents applying for relocation orders were women;

most of the parents involved in the relocation dispute had been married;

the majority of relocation cases involved one or two children;

57% of relocation applications were approved with 43 per cent of cases being rejected;

parents wanting to relocate so they could return to their birthplace were successful in 75% of cases; and

parents wanting to relocate to be with a new partner were successful in 54% of cases.

The study findings will be discussed at a public seminar on Tuesday 15 February at the office of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Level 20, 485 La Trobe Street, Melbourne.

Family Matters No 86

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