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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

08 SEP 2011

Relocation, indeterminacy, and burden of proof: lessons from Canada [2011] CFLQ 155

This article traces the history of relocation law in Canada and assesses the merits of law reform proposals on relocation in one Canadian province, British Columbia. These law reforms would introduce burdens of proof for relocation applications, marking a departure from the Canadian trend. Based on the key Supreme Court of Canada decision on relocation, Gordon v Goertz (1996), this trend has been to reject presumptions of any kind in custody decision-making. Relocation decisions have thus been left to the discretion of individual judges, using the indeterminate best interests of the child test. Burdens of proof have, however, been at play at earlier points in Canadian law. In addition, studies indicate that the rejection of presumptions in favour of a general best interests test has had mixed results at best. The article uses these studies to raise questions about calls in recent scholarly literature for a 'neutral child-centric' approach and considers the impact of a normative climate favouring shared parenting and maximum contact on interpretations of children's best interests in the relocation context. The author recommends that greater attention be paid to the realities of a child's life, including the care relationships surrounding the child.

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