The Socioeconomic Trap — Restricted Mobility & Problematic Relocation Doctrine In Family Courts

The Justice Lark
4 min readSep 16, 2023
Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash

The relocation doctrine in family courts is a principle that seeks to balance a custodial parent’s right to move for legitimate reasons against the noncustodial parent’s right to maintain a close relationship with their child.

It sounds rational on paper, but it often disproportionately affects women, particularly those attempting to break free from abusive environments and/or those seeking better economic opportunities.

When we consider the concept of mobility, it’s not just about the physical act of moving from one place to another, but also encompasses the broader implications it has on an person’s life.

Economic mobility is, for many, a driving force behind the decision to relocate. The allure of new places often comes with the promise of better job opportunities and a more prosperous life.

For mothers, especially, the ability to move can directly influence their capacity to provide for their children and secure a stable future.

Thus, when they are denied the right to relocate, it doesn’t just limit their geographical movement, but also hinders their potential for economic growth, pushing them deeper into the quagmire of financial instability.

On a deeply personal level, relocating can also represent a fresh beginning.

For those who have faced traumas, moving offers an opportunity to heal, to distance oneself from painful memories, and to establish a new life with renewed hope.

When this avenue for emotional mobility is blocked, it can mean that the scars of the past remain unhealed, leading to prolonged psychological distress.

Our social surroundings also play a crucial role in our well-being. The communities we live in can either be a source of strength or a reminder of our vulnerabilities.

When primary carers are prohibited from relocating, they can be inadvertently confined to unsupportive and sometimes even hostile communities.

This not only robs them of the potential to form new, nurturing social bonds elsewhere but also risks trapping them in environments that perpetuate a cycle of social stagnation.



The Justice Lark

Passionate writer and researcher focused on promoting justice and equity, with emphasis on issues related to gender-based violence, trauma & mental health.