Global Family Law Services

What You Can Learn From Halle Berry’s Failed International Child Relocation Attempt

| Nov 15, 2012 | Child Custody, International Custody, Relocation

According to media reports Halle Berry sought a court’s permission to move with her daughter Nahla to France against the wishes of the child’s father, actor/model Gabriel Aubry. Berry is apparently engaged to another actor, Olivier Martinez, who lives in France. The court denied Berry’s request to relocate. For anyone considering relocating with their children against the wishes of the other parent, there are some important takeaways from Halle Berry’s failed relocation attempt.

Prior to issuing a ruling the court sanctioned a psychological evaluation. The evaluation concluded that Nahla’s best interests were served if her mother primarily cared for her. Reports indicated that although Aubry loved his daughter he was not as able to take responsibility for her day-to-day care. Psychological reports like these are commonplace in contested custody cases and in relocation cases. When they do not settle, relocation cases like this often turn into complex and expensive duels between mothers and fathers, their psychological experts and sophisticated family law attorneys.

Upon close examination, the Halle Berry/ Gabriel Aubry situation bears considerable similarities to another celebrity relocation case, that of the Kelly Rutherford (see our previous blog entry on the Kelly Rutherford custody order). In both cases the respective courts found that keeping the parents in close proximity to one another was the most important aspect of furthering the best interests of the children involved. In the Rutherford case that meant the children were required to move to France. In the Berry/Aubry case the court determined that the child should not move to France. Although Berry could move to France without her child, such an outcome is unlikely. Thus, as a practical matter, Berry was ordered to stay in Los Angeles even though the court determined that her parenting best served Nahla’s interests.

Without explicitly ruling so, the Berry/Aubry court is implicitly prohibiting Halle Berry’s relocation, contrary to her wishes. Does it matter that Halle is engaged to a man in France? Not so much. What should one take away from this? Of course every case is different and there are many nuanced issues subject to consideration on many levels. But there are also several immediate takeaways for anyone interested in issues like this:

1.) A parent’s desire to relocate children against the will of the other parent often fails. Courts are loath to separate children from their parents. This is true even when the parent wanting to move is the “better parent.” Experience suggests that this is also usually true even when the not-as-good parent is a human train wreck. Children should be in close proximity to their parents whenever possible.

2.) Children, by the time they are 6 or 7, have their own social network. Disturbing that network is not just disruptive, but it is considered unhealthy for children. Therefore a party that wishes to relocate with the children needs a persuasive reason to move them. Moving a child across a city to a different school system is traumatic. Moving a child to another state is even more traumatic, especially when it negatively impacts the amount of time a parent can spend with their children. Relocating overseas is a dramatic change of environment. Therefore the reason for the move must be of a similar magnitude. The reason must be truly compelling.

3.) If you want to relocate, as a general rule, you better have a damn good reason! The greater the distance the more compelling the reason should be. Getting married usually is not enough. A court might say that the remarrying parent should make the new spouse move. Getting engaged just isn’t enough. Halle Berry also tried this as a reason: the paparazzi were creating danger for Nahla. The paparazzi are too dangerous?? Halle Berry is hardly the only celeb in LA. A court would tell her to move to a smaller town in CA before it allowed a move for this reason (or perhaps she could try to move somewhere not quite so far away, like back to her hometown of Cleveland). Or it could tell her to quit her profession and lower her profile. But the danger created by paparazzi is not enough to warrant separating a girl from her father.

4.) None of the above should suggest that a parent can never relocate with a child. People come to us all the time to help them move. It can be done. We have represented people whose children would fly overseas between parents. This example illustrates our contention that every case needs to be considered on its individual merits. A winning approach is to spell out solid reasons for the move from the outset of the case and propose workable solutions to the problems that the move creates. If you can do this then you are then on your way to persuading the court to allow you to relocate.