Meaningful does not mean optimal
The benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of the child’s parents
- While it is well accepted by the case law that ‘meaningful’ does not mean ‘optimal’, the provision is not simply focused upon the question of whether or not there should be a meaningful relationship, but rather the benefit that a child may derive from it. The work of the provision is not ended by answering the question “will there be a meaningful relationship under this particular arrangement?” Rather, the provision requires an assessment of the relationship and a consideration, in the context of how that relationship is to be exercised, of the benefits that will accrue. I do not accept that a move to Town B would result in the relationship between the father and the child no longer being meaningful. The father would still spend regular day and overnight time with the child. I do, however, accept that the benefits that flow from that relationship would be impacted by the child moving to Town B to a degree that is unable to be identified in these interim proceedings. The mother says that she has been able to maintain a close relationship with the child while she lived in Town B and the child lived in Town A. She has spent time with the child almost every weekend. That is, the child appears to have continued to strongly benefit from relationship with her mother under the arrangements that persisted from February to August 2016. It is reasonable to conclude that if the child once again lives in Town A, her relationship with her mother will be well supported in a manner that appears to have previously been beneficial to her. It is a tested regime that is the subject of little substantive criticism by the mother. A move to Town B will have unknown consequences on the benefits that the child receives in the relationship with her father.