Can you move — With or without your child?


If you have an agreement or order

If you have an agreement or order dealing with guardianship, parenting time or parental responsibilities, and you're thinking about relocating (moving), especially with your child, here is what you must consider.

Avoid a dispute

It's best to discuss your plans with any other guardians or people who have contact with the child before you make firm plans. They may have a say about whether you can move.  If you talk about it up front, you might avoid an urgent and difficult court hearing.  Also, see a lawyer to get advice about how likely it is that a court would allow the move. You can also use a mediator to help the two of you sort out new parenting arrangements or a new contact schedule.

Give the other parent notice of the move

If you are a child's guardian and you plan to move, you must tell any other guardian or person who has contact with the child about the move if:

  • you have a written agreement or court order dealing with parenting arrangements or contact;
  • you plan to move, with or without the child, or you plan to move only the child; and
  • the move would have a big impact on your child's relationship with the other parent/guardian or other important people in the child's life.

The law requires that you tell any other guardian or person who has contact with the child when and where you plan to move. You must give them this information in writing 60 days before you plan to move. This is called giving notice.

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

  • providing that information would put you at risk of family violence; or
  • the other guardian or person with contact with the child doesn't have an ongoing relationship with the child.

After you give notice

If the other person disagrees with your plans to move your child, the law says you must try hard to work out your disagreement.

If you give notice that you plan to move the child, the other guardian has 30 days to file a court application to object to the move. If the other guardian doesn't file that application, you're free to move the child.

If you can't work it out, the person who isn't moving can apply to court for an order. He or she must apply within 30 days of receiving the notice you sent about the move.

If that person has contact with the child, the court may order changes to your contact arrangements. If that person is a guardian, he or she can ask for an order that says you can't move.

What if another guardian objects to the move?

If a guardian objects to the move, the guardian who is moving must show the court that the move is being made in good faith.

Some of the things the court can consider when deciding if the move is being made in good faith include:

  • the reasons for the move;
  • if the move is likely to improve your child's quality of life;
  • whether you gave proper notice of the move; and
  • whether there are any restrictions on moving in your agreement or order.

It will also consider whether you have suggested reasonable and workable arrangements to continue your child's relationship with:

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

If the court is convinced, it will then look at the child's best interests:

  • If both guardians have nearly equal parenting time, the guardian who is moving must convince the court that the move is in the child's best interests.
  • If the guardians don't have equal parenting time, the court will consider the move to be in the child's best interests unless the guardian who isn't moving convinces the court otherwise.

The court isn't allowed to consider whether the guardian who wants to move would still move if the child weren't allowed to move.

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, there could be serious consequences (including fines and even jail). If the move affects the ability of another guardian to spend parenting time with the child (or the ability of a person having contact with the child to have contact) as set out in an order or filed agreement, the other person can apply to court:

  • for an order that you wrongfully denied them parenting time. There are many decisions a judge can make in these circumstances. For more information, see the fact sheet What happens if I don’t follow a court order or agreement?
  • to change the parenting order or to set aside (cancel) the parenting agreement. For example, they could ask for an order that the child be returned and live mostly with them. The judge will make a decision based on the best interests of the child. The court may hold it against you that you moved without the permission of the other guardian or the court and without giving proper notice.

It’s also possible that you’ll be charged with a crime if there's evidence you’ve abducted the child. For information on the consequences of international child abduction, see the Government of Canada website.

If you don't have an agreement or order

Different rules apply if you don't have an order or agreement about parenting, and one of the child's guardians plans to move with the child. If you can't reach an agreement, either guardian can apply to court for parenting orders.

If you don’t have an order or a separation agreement and you want to move, try to come to an agreement with the other guardian or parent, or get a court order together that deals with parenting arrangements for the children.

Like any case involving parenting orders, the court must decide based on the child's best interests. If the move would have a big impact on the child's relationship with their other parent/guardian, the court has to consider the reasons for the move.

The court isn't allowed to consider whether the guardian who wants to move would still move if the child weren't allowed to move.

If you decide to move against the wishes of the other guardian or parent, this might be held against you by a judge if either of you later applies for parenting orders. It’s also possible that you’ll be charged with a crime if there's evidence you’ve abducted the child. For information on the consequences of international child abduction, see the Government of Canada website.

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

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

  • pay security,
  • give up your passport and the passport of the child,
  • 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 specific geographical area.

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