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The law protects a child’s right to a relationship with both (or all) of his or her parents. Following a divorce, dissolution or separation the parent with whom the children of the family are ordinarily resident may decide that relocation is in the best interests of the children and that parent, perhaps to move closer to a support network, to obtain cheaper housing or simply for a fresh start. This may be to another part of the UK, or to another country entirely.
Relocation is a decision that should not be taken lightly, and there are numerous logistical and emotional implications that should be weighed up as a parent considers their options. Most important is the opportunity for children to maintain their relationship with their other parent, how this relationship could be impacted by a relocation and what steps could be taken in order to mitigate distress and difficulty. The opportunity for contact should be a key consideration, including how often the children will see the other parent and how indirect contact – such as phone calls, video calls and letters – could be factored into the proposed arrangement.
A parent still wishing to relocate with the children having considered all of the above should then discuss their wishes with the other parent. Technically, a relocation within England and Wales does not require your former partner’s permission but they could formally object to the relocation by applying to the court for a prohibited steps order. This order, if granted, would prevent the relocation from occurring. In response, you would need to seek a specific issue order to overrule the prohibited steps order and allow the relocation.
In the vast majority of cases, agreement between the parents as to relocation is by far the best option. If your former partner will not initially agree to the relocation, you should seek specialist legal advice to discuss your options. For example, attending mediation with your former partner may allow you to reach a consensus about the relocation. This of course may not be appropriate in certain circumstances such as where there is a history of domestic abuse.
If the intention is to relocate abroad with your children, you will require the written permission to do so from everyone with Parental Responsibility. If you cannot obtain such permission, you will need to apply to the court for a specific issue order for what is known as “leave to remove”. Anyone choosing to relocate abroad with children when they do not have permission from those with Parental Responsibility or the court, could face extremely serious consequences as this will be viewed as child abduction. A charge of child abduction may be brought even if the non-resident parent does not have Parental Responsibility.
The central consideration of the court when deciding such matters will be the welfare and wellbeing of the child or children in the matter. The court will take into account the impact of allowing or prohibiting a move on each of the parents and that knock-on effect on the children, and – if the children are deemed of sufficient age and capacity – their feelings and wishes.
For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.Back to Law Articles