Moving abroad with children
Child Abduction  |  Child law  |  Family law

5 Tips for Moving Abroad with Children

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Walker Family Law
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It is not unusual for a parent to consider moving abroad with their children, particularly after divorce. Whether that’s because their work takes them there, because their new partner lives there, or because they have some other connection with that country.

Moving abroad with childrenBut a parent cannot take their children permanently out of the UK just because they want to. They will need the consent of the other parent (or anyone else with parental responsibility for the children) and, failing that, they will need the permission of the court.

So how will the court decide whether to give you permission to move your children abroad?

The welfare of the child is paramount

In 2001 the Court of Appeal set out a number of guidelines that the court should take into account when deciding whether to grant permission for a child to be relocated to another country. These guidelines included:

(i) That there is no presumption in favour of the parent applying for permission to relocate.

(ii) That the reasonable proposals of the parent with a residence order (i.e. what is now a child arrangements order stating that the child should live with that parent) wishing to live abroad carry great weight.

(iii) That consequently the proposals have to be scrutinised with care, and the court needs to be satisfied that there is a genuine motivation for the move, and that it is not simply intended to bring contact between the child and the other parent to an end.

(iv) That the effect upon the applicant parent and any new family of the child of a refusal of permission is a very important consideration.

(v) That the effect upon the child of the denial of contact with the other parent and in some cases his/her family is also very important.

(vi) That the opportunity for continuing contact between the child and the parent left behind may be very significant.

These guidelines were subsequently the subject of considerable criticism, in particular that they favoured the parent with whom the child was living, most often the mother, and that this amounted to a virtual presumption in favour of a mother’s application.

So in 2016 the Court of Appeal clarified matters by stating simply that there is only one principle in these relocation cases, and that is that the welfare of the child is paramount. There was no presumption in favour of mothers, and any guidance is just that – designed to be of assistance (or not), depending on the circumstances of the case.

So it may be that in a particular case the court will consider the 2001 guidance, or part of it, but that guidance will not alone decide the case. At every step of the way the court will be considering what is best for the child’s welfare.

Advice for parents moving abroad with children

So, the advice for anyone wishing to move abroad with their children is as follows:

  1. Seek the consent of the other parent.
  2. If that is not forthcoming, you will need to obtain the permission of the court.
  3. As to whether the court will grant permission depends upon what is best for the welfare of the children, so you must ask yourself: is it best for them that they move abroad with me, or that they remain in this country?
  4. Give serious consideration to how the children are to retain contact with the other parent, whether that be direct contact (for example returning to this country during school holidays), or indirect contact, such as letters, emails, messaging, Skype/Facetime/WhatsApp, etc.
  5. Lastly, take legal advice before applying to the court for permission. Relocation applications can be complicated, and an expert family lawyer will usually be able to give a good indication as to whether or not the court is likely to grant permission.

How We Can Help

Ian Walker Family Law & Mediation Solicitors are award-winning family solicitors and are recognised as one of the leading family law firms in the South West of England with services covering family law & mediation, divorce law, child law, and arbitration. Please contact the team to speak to one of our specialist solicitors.