Child Arrangements

Internal Relocation

Internal Relocation

Internal relocation cases are cases in which one parent seeks to move with their child to another part of the UK, and the other parent objects.

There are different legal jurisdictions which make up the UK.  These are:  

  • England and Wales
  • Scotland
  • Northern Ireland

Part I of the Family Law Act 1986 aims to prevent conflicting court orders being made in respect of a child in different jurisdictions of the UK.  There is a process whereby court orders made in one jurisdiction of the UK can be registered enforced in another.

What happens when one parent wants to relocate with their child to another part of the UK?

A person who is named in a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) as a person with whom a child lives does not require permission to relocate within the UK in the same way that they would if they wished to take the child to live outside the UK. 

Even if there is no CAO already in place, it is generally expected that a parent who has parental responsibility for their children should consult with and reach agreement with others with parental responsibility – which would normally include the other parent – and seek agreement prior to the move.

A unilateral move where the other parent has not consented (or has otherwise not been consulted or notified) will normally be frowned upon by the court and can be reversed.

If the non-resident parent disagrees with a proposed move, they may apply for a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent it from happening or, where a CAO is in place, for a condition to be attached on the CAO as to the location at which the child must reside. However, imposing a condition of that nature is a power that the court should exercise sparingly and only in ‘exceptional cases’.  

If the proposed move is within the UK but is far enough away that it would necessitate a change of school then, in the absence of consent by the other parent, an application under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 for Specific Issue Order to permit a change of school. 

If there is an existing CAO which sets out arrangements for the children to spend time with the parent who is not moving, then that order would need to be varied.

If a unilateral move has already taken place without the consent of the other parent, then the non-resident parent could apply for a Specific Issue Order requiring the child’s return back to their original location and/or could apply for a Child Arrangements Order to reverse the child’s living arrangements.  

There are legal mechanisms which can be used to locate a child whose whereabouts are being hidden and the court can order passports to be surrendered to prevent an abduction, if required.  This often involves the assistance of the police who, coupled with the court, can prove very effective in these cases.

To avoid such measures from needing to be taken and to avoid relocations needing to be reversed, it is much better to try and seek the appropriate permission or court order before moving.

How We Can Help

Whether you are currently facing a relocation dispute or have questions about your rights and responsibilities as a parent, our team is here to provide you with the expert support and advice you need.

Internal relocation cases can be highly emotive and hotly contested and can involve ‘high stakes’ outcomes for all parties involved.

Our lawyers can provide the guidance and support you need to navigate the legal process and protect your child’s best interests.

Our team will handle all the legal aspects of your case, they will listen attentively to your needs and concerns, and offer you comprehensive legal support and advice.  We can draft consent orders to reflect and legally endorse parental agreements and prepare applications and assist in preparing evidence where a relocation is contested.

Contact our team today to schedule a consultation.

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