Moving abroad with children after a divorce

Over the weekend, I received an e-mail from Lisette. The previous Friday evening, she had found a subpoena (‘dagvaarding’) on her doormat. Her ex-partner Jim had initiated preliminary relief proceedings (‘kort geding’)  asking for an injunction against Lisette to move to Italy with their 3-year-old daughter, Tara.

On Monday morning, Lisette explained to me that her new boyfriend Greg, a professional basketball player, had been offered a new contract with an Italian sports club. Lisette wanted to make the move with him. Her relationship with Jim had known rough times and Lisette should have reported domestic violence on multiple occasions. Now that they were separated, Jim didn’t see Tara very often and they still fought regularly. Jim had asked for joint custody of Tara. Lisette felt that this was unnecessary, given the facts and the circumstances.
So, in addition to the preliminary relief proceedings, Jim had also submitted a request to the court for joint custody. In the relief proceedings, he had requested a relocation ban, at least until the judge of the other proceedings to determine had reached a ruling concerning joint custody.

The preliminary relief proceedings
The preliminary relief proceedings took place on Tuesday. During the hearing, the judge asked the parties to try talking to each other. The session was adjourned for a while and we spoke for more than an hour in the hallway outside the courtroom.

What is most important to you?

I asked Jim what it was that he really wanted; what was most important to him? And suppose that Lisette would move with Tara, how often would he like to be able see her? Jim admitted that it was important to him to be recognised as Tara’s father. He understood that moving to Italy was a great opportunity for Lisette and he didn’t in fact want to deprive her of this. He felt it was reasonable if Lisette would fly back with Tara once every 6 weeks, so that he could spend time with Tara.

I asked Lisette why she was so strongly against joint custody. Lisette confessed her concern that Jim was often trying to interfere with her parenting. She was afraid that joint custody would eventually lead to him preventing her from moving elsewhere or taking a vacation with Tara. After all, joint custody would require Jim’s permission in such matters.

Moving on with their lives
In the end, we agreed that Jim would still be given parental custody, under conditions laid out in the parenting plan that Lisette would fly back to the Netherlands with Tara every 6 weeks and that Lisette would receive advance permission to relocate and to travel anywhere with Tara for vacation, with no limitations.  Jim dropped the lawsuit and Lisette and Jim were both able to get on with their lives.