Child Relocation – it doesn’t need to get Ugly

By their very nature relocation cases are often the most difficult to deal with as they are highly emotive and inevitably they will lead to one parent having less or no contact with their child.

Where the ‘non-moving’ parent has parental responsibility, the parent with primary care of a child will need to seek the permission of that parent to remove the child from the jurisdiction. In the absence of an agreement between parents, the parent wishing to relocate will have to make an application to the court, known as Specific Issue Application.

Where there is a living arrangements order in place, the resident parent may remove a child for up to 1 month at a time without consent of the other parent or courts permission.

When seeking to remove a child permanently from the jurisdiction of England and Wales, the dilemma for the court is being able to weigh up the rights of the primary carer to relocate and the rights of the ‘non-moving’ parent. Of paramount importance of course, is the welfare of the child and whether the proposed move is in the child’s best interests.

In deciding such cases the courts need to ensure the reasons for the proposed move is not driven by some selfish desire to exclude the non-moving parent from the child’s life, but that there are genuine reasons for the proposed relocation , which might include job opportunities, family support and or a better lifestyle.

For applications to succeed, it is important the moving parent is able to put forward good and realistic proposals for contact and demonstrate to the court that they have thought about how the child can still maintain a good relationship with the ‘non-moving’ parent, which is likely to involve the child travelling to the UK to have staying contact with the ‘non-moving’ parent 2-3 times a year. Consideration will need to be given as to which parent will fund the trips etc. In addition the relocating parent will need to consider weekly indirect contact and maybe some face to face contact in the form of skype calls etc.

In addition, the moving parent must be able to demonstrate to the court they have properly researched the proposed move and factored into their decision to move, education, medical care, housing etc.

The courts will of course have to examine the opposing parent’s opposition and determine whether the ‘non-moving’ parent is genuinely concerned about their child’s welfare or whether they have an ulterior motive for wanting the moving parent to remain.

The case law in this area has changed greatly in the last few years, especially where the courts are more often than not making shared care arrangement orders, which entails both parents being actively involved in a child’s life. The courts are increasingly refusing applications to relocate. That said the court will ned to consider the impact upon the moving parent if permission to relocate is denied as an unhappy , depressed and isolated mother could make for a unhappy child. Whether you wish to relocate with your child or oppose relocation, it is important to adopt the right strategy from the outset and it is paramount that early legal advice is sought.


Children matter, but sadly procedures matter more?

Children are often the worst affected after the breakdown of a relationship. It is therefore important for both parents to amicably reconcile their differences in the best interest of the children. Sadly at this stage emotions are high and children can find themselves embroiled in the issues and on occasions being forced to take sides of either parent.

The longer it takes for the child to see the absent parent the more damaging it is for the child in the long term.

Should there be a route directly to the court to avoid delay for parents who are not having contact with their children?

The delay to commence court proceedings often invokes a status quo and the main person affected is the child who does not understand why he/she has not seen the absent parent. A child can therefore be left feeling rejected whilst the parents try to resolve issues through mediation and the court.

Currently unless there is evidence of domestic violence, involvement with the police, doctors or involvement of a refuge the parents have to access mediation before an application for contact can be issued.

Should the child not have a voice and a right not to be estranged from a parent when there are no other welfare issues?

One solution could be a procedure to make a fast track application to the court where there has not been any of the above issues but parents have simply not been able to agree arrangements and the children have been left with no contact with the non-resident parent as a result.

Sadly, there’s no plans for a speedier service as yet, but we shall wait and see whether a process or a procedure is set to help enable a “fast-track” service at the family courts, which will eventually help reduce the suffering of any child going when parents separate.