Opinion article by our coordinator, Dr. Nuno Cardoso-Ribeiro, in the Público newspaper of 12/04/2023, regarding the child’s change of residence in case of parental disagreement. Read the article on the Público website or the translation and in pdf below:
“The child’s relocation in case of parental disagreement
The child’s relocation to another location is a matter that should be agreed upon with the parents. If there is no agreement, either parent should go to court.
It is very common, in case of divorce or separation, that one of the parents wants to leave the place where the family used to live and move with the child of the couple to another place. Either because, with the separation, he misses his family or needs their support, or for professional reasons, the truth is that this is a very frequent issue in our courts.
In cases where the change of residence does not cause disruption to the arrangements with the other parent and does not imply significant changes in the child’s life, namely school, family or social changes, nothing will, in principle, prevent such a move. In cases where it is a relocation to a distant location, or even to another country, this is not the case, and the other parent may oppose the move.
And what happens when one of the parents opposes to relocate to another location?
The decision regarding the child’s place of residence is a matter of particular importance in the law. These are the most essential, serious and rare issues in the child’s life, the decision of which falls to both parents. Other examples would be the choice of public or private education, religion (until the age of 16), or life-threatening medical interventions. On the other hand, day-to-day life, i.e., the most common issues, are decided by the parent the child is with at the time (for example, picking up and dropping off at school, bedtime or the use of technology).
The child’s move to another location is a particularly important issue that should be agreed upon by both parents. If there is no agreement, either parent can go to court to decide the issue.
Knowing whether a child should remain in the place where he or she lives with one parent or whether he or she should accompany the other in a move to another place or another country is, of course, no easy task. In fact, relocation may have all sorts of implications, especially with regard to socializing with the parent who is not moving and other relatives, as well as consequences for school life, social life, etc…
When the decision concerns younger children, the courts have already used the so-called “primary figure of reference” as a decision criterion, although the literature in this field challenges this concept, stating that the child is able to bond with more than one caregiver, needing regular contact with both parents to establish a secure attachment relationship.
If it is a young teenager, other criteria should take precedence, such as the will expressed by the teenager himself, as well as the implications for his family, school, and social integration.
In any case, these are very delicate decisions, which may have a strong impact on the life of the child and his family, so they should be carefully considered. And, as in any judicial decision concerning children, the criterion should always be the best interest of the child.”