Location, location, location is a popular Channel 4 property programme where we see Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer help couples find their perfect home. But what happens when a couple want Kirstie and Phil’s help to find a new home, in a new country and relocate with children from a previous relationship or marriage?
What permissions do you need to relocate with children?
Under the law in England and Wales you can relocate with your children anywhere in the UK or abroad if you gain the consent of everyone with parental responsibility for your children. It is a criminal offence to take a child out of the UK without the consent of everyone who has parental responsibility and it actually amounts to child abduction under the Hague Convention.
So first of all, you need to tell your ex-partner of your wish to relocate and ask for their consent. If they give their consent, it would be sensible to have a solicitor draw up an agreement for both of you to sign. If your ex-partner does not consent, you will need to apply to the court for permission to permanently remove the children from the jurisdiction of England and Wales. If this is the case, you will need to make attempts to resolve the dispute through mediation, unless certain circumstances apply. Mediation is a non-confrontational process of resolving disputes outside of court. It is completely voluntary and your ex-partner may decline to attend.
Will I have to go to court?
If Mediation doesn’t work, or isn’t an option, it may be necessary to make a court application. In this case, it is important to know how the court will make its decision. There is a raft of case law such as Payne v Payne, K v K, and Re: F which set out important features but ultimately each case is decided on its individual facts and the child’s welfare remains paramount to any decisions. The court will also reference the welfare checklist as set out in the Children Act 1989 when making decisions.
During the proceedings, the court will assess whether the application is genuine and not an attempt to prevent your ex-partner from seeing the children. It is important to prepare a statement setting out achievable and workable proposals for your ex-partner’s continued involvement with the children through both direct and indirect contact. You will need to demonstrate that your plan to relocate is well thought through and explain what you envisage life will be like in the new country. You will need to properly investigate housing, schooling, health care and employment prospects amongst other things. The court will take into account the views of the children, if they are mature enough to make an informed opinion, although it is not bound to follow them. The children’s wishes and feelings are usually expressed via a CAFCASS Officer who will have been appointed to prepare a report for the court. The court will consider the reasons for your ex-partner’s opposition to the relocation along with the impact of a refusal on the parent seeking permission to relocate.
How can you stop your ex-partner relocating with the children?
If you find yourself on the other side of the fence what you can do will depend on the circumstances of your case. You could seek a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent them from moving. This puts a hold on the move and the court will then be able to properly consider the situation.
For advice if you are involved in a dispute involving arrangements for a child, including a proposed move overseas, or within the jurisdiction, please contact Claire Porter in our Family Law team on 01244 305926.