When we talk about relocating with children within family law there are generally two types of relocation:
- Internal relocation – where the primary carer wants to move to a different part of the UK with the children
- External relocation – where the primary carer wants to move abroad with the children.
The legal principles are very similar for both types of relocation.
Legally, 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 amounts to child abduction under the Hague Convention.
If you are considering moving the children away from the non-resident parent, the first thing you must do is tell your ex-partner of your desire 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 relocate with the children. If this is the case, you will normally need to make attempts to resolve the dispute through mediation prior to making an application to the court.
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 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.
During the proceedings, the court will consider the following:
- Whether the move is genuine or whether it is an attempt to prevent the non-resident parent from having a meaningful relationship with the children.
- Whether the applicant’s future proposals for contact between the children and the non-resident parent are achievable and workable.
- Whether the applicant has a detailed plan for the relocation. The applicant will need to properly investigate housing, schooling, health care and employment prospects amongst other things.
- The court will consider the views of the children, if they are mature enough to make an informed opinion, although it is not bound to follow them.
- 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 the children from moving. This puts a hold on the move and the court will then be able to properly consider the situation.