Can you move — with or without your children?

There are a few things to think about if:

  • you and your partner have separated, and
  • you have children together, and
  • one of you wants to move to a new house.

You have to follow certain rules if your move would affect the other parent's ability to spend time with the children. The law calls this relocation but we'll call it moving.

The rules you have to follow depend on:

  • whether you have an agreement or order, or
  • what kind of parenting arrangements you have.

Click the situation that applies to you to find out more.

Here are the things you'll need to think about if:

  • you want to move, especially if you want to take your children with you, and
  • you have an agreement or order about:
    • guardianship,
    • parenting time, or
    • parental responsibilities.

Before you act on your plan to move

Speak about your plans with the other parent and any other guardians or people who have contact with the children before you do anything. This might be hard for you, but it can make things easier. For example, the other parent might be able to stop you from moving with your children, but if you speak to them before you do anything, you might be able to sort things out without going to court.

Ask a lawyer if they think a court would let you move. You can also use a mediator to help you and any other guardians sort out new parenting arrangements or a new contact schedule.

Speak about your plan to move

If you're a child's guardian, you have a written agreement or court order dealing with parenting arrangements or contact, and you plan to move, the law says you must tell the other parent, and any other guardian or person who has contact with the children about your plan if the move will affect your children's relationship with any of those people.

You have to do this if you plan to:

  • move with the children, or
  • move without the children, or
  • move only the children (that is, the children will move to a different city without you or the other parent or any other guardians).

The law says you must tell any other guardian or person who has contact with the child when and where you plan to move.

To do this, write down when and where you plan to move and give it to them 60 days before you plan to move. This is called giving notice.

You can ask the court to excuse you from doing this if:

  • it would put you at risk of family violence, or
  • the other parent, or guardians, or people with contact with the children don't have an ongoing relationship with them (that means they don’t see the children regularly and there's no real connection or love between them).

After you give notice

If you want to move your children and the other parent doesn't want you to move, the law says you must try hard to work something out.

If you can't work something out, the other parent can object to the move by filing an application with the court. There are two ways they can do this:

  • After you give notice that you plan to move the children, the other parent has 30 days to file a court application to object to the move. (Only guardians can do this.) If they don't do this, you can move with the children.
  • After you give notice that you plan to move the children, the parent who isn't moving can apply to court for an order.

If they're a guardian, they must respond within 30 days to ask the court for an order stopping the move.

If they have contact, they can apply anytime for an order to change their contact time.

What if another guardian objects to the move?

If a guardian objects to the move, the guardian who's moving must prove that the move is "being made in good faith." That means they have to show the court that they're moving to make a better life, for example, and not to make things hard for the other guardian.

Here are some of the things the court will ask when it's deciding if a move's being made in good faith:

  • Why do you want to move?
  • Is the move likely to make life better for the children?
  • Did you give proper notice that you want to move?
  • Does your agreement or order have anything to say about moving with the children?

It will also look at whether you've suggested reasonable and workable arrangements so that your children don't grow apart from:

  • the guardian or person with contact who isn't moving, and
  • other important people in their life.

If the court decides all these things look okay, it will then look at the child's best interests:

  • If both guardians have nearly equal parenting time, the guardian who's moving must prove to the court that the move's in the children's best interests.
  • If the guardians don't have equal parenting time, the guardian who isn't moving must prove to the court that the move isn’t in the children's best interests.

The court can't consider whether the guardian who wants to move would still move even if the children aren't allowed to move with them.

If you move your child without giving notice

If you have a parenting agreement or order and you move without giving notice to the other guardian or person who has contact, you could be in serious trouble (for example, you could be given a fine or even sent to jail).

If your move means the other guardian’s relationship with the children will be affected as set out in an order or filed agreement, they can apply to court:

  • for an order that you wrongfully denied them parenting time (that means you didn't stick to your agreement about when they can see the children). A judge has different choices about what to do if this happens. To find out more about this, see What happens if you don't follow a parenting agreement or order?
  • to change the parenting order or to set aside (cancel) the parenting agreement. For example, they could ask for an order that says the children must come back and live mostly with them. The judge will look at the best interests of the children before they decide.

The court might think badly of you if you move without asking the other guardian or the court and without giving proper notice.

You could also be charged with a crime if there's evidence you abducted (kidnapped) the children. To find out more about international child abduction, see the Child abduction and custody issues page on the Government of Canada website.

If you don't have an order or agreement about parenting, and you want to move with the children, there are certain rules to follow.

If you and the other guardian can't agree about the move, one of you can apply to the court to get a parenting order. But going court takes time and money. And it's stressful.

Try to work something out between you so you don't need to go to court.

If you can't do that, you can get a court order together that deals with parenting arrangements for the children.

If you go to court for a parenting order, the court will look at the children's best interests. If the move would affect the children's relationship with their other parent or guardians, the court has to think carefully about why you want to move.

The court isn't allowed to consider whether the guardian who wants to move would still move even if the children aren't allowed to move with them.

If you decide to move even though the other guardian or parent doesn't want you to, a judge might think badly of you if you or the other parent applies for parenting orders.

You could also be charged with a crime if there's evidence you abducted (kidnapped) the child. To find out more about international child abduction, see the Child abduction and custody issues page on the Government of Canada website.

Taking a child outside BC with or without an agreement or order

If another guardian or person with contact thinks you're about to take a child out of BC and not come back, they can apply for a court order to stop you. If they show the court enough proof, the court can order you to:

  • pay security (like paying bail for someone),
  • hand in your passport and the children’s passports,
  • transfer specified property to a trustee named by the court, or
  • pay any child support to a trustee.

The court can also order you not to take the child out of a certain area.