In the event one parent wishes to move a child within the UK there is currently no legal requirement to obtain either consent from the other parent or permission of the Court. This can prove to be a significant problem when one parent makes a decision to move away from the other, usually following separation. A unilateral move without consultation with the other parent is never advisable. You will need to assess and demonstrate that a move would be in the best interests of the child.

We regularly advise clients on prohibited steps orders which prevent the internal relocation of children within the UK where the relationship with the non-resident parent would be significantly damaged if the move was to take place. As with any child arrangements application the welfare of the child is paramount and the pros and cons for relocation would need to be presented to the Court. Internal relocation cases do however require there to be exceptional circumstances why the move should not take place, in particular if the parent wishing to move has a child arrangements order confirming that the children live with them.

In contrast, if one parent decides to relocate outside of the UK, they are required by law to either obtain the written consent of every other person with parental responsibility for the child, or obtain the permission of the Court to relocate. These cases are extremely complex and require thorough consideration by the Court. The party wishing to relocate out of the UK can make an application to court for a specific issue order or the parent refusing the move can apply for a prohibited steps order.

Each case will turn on its own facts however; the main principles that must be considered when dealing with external relocation are as follows:

  • The application must be genuine rather than a ploy to exclude the other parent from the child’s life. It will be important to demonstrate how contact will continue.
  • The plans must be realistic and well researched.
  • The court will then balance on the one hand the opposition of the parent staying behind, with on the other hand the effect on the applicant wanting to move if the application is refused.
1. What should I do if I think my ex-partner intends to move abroad with the children?

We recommend that you seek specialist legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity.

2. I want to relocate abroad – what should I do?

If your proposed relocation will restrict contact between your children and the other parent, it is important that you have a strong motive for relocation, including a clear plan for your future life. This should consider matters such as where you will live and what school the children will attend. You will also need to consider realistic proposals for contact, including how this will be funded. You should discuss this with a family law expert who will be able to identify any possible issues with your current plan and assist you in taking the relevant steps.  

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