PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.
By Kelly Willmott – Family Law Solcitor
Following a relationship breakdown, it is not uncommon to want a ‘fresh start.’ For some, this may involve moving to a new area, perhaps for a new work opportunity or to move closer to family members.
When moving within England and Wales, this is considered an ‘internal relocation.’
When there are children involved, however, it may not be as simple as merely packing up and leaving. Consent should always be obtained from all persons with parental responsibility before a ‘resident parent’ relocates with a child.
Of course, a move is not always agreed and when this occurs careful consideration should be given to the appropriate steps to take, prior to relocation. When one parent does not consent, an application to the court may be necessary whether this be for permission to relocate, or to prevent the child from moving, for example.
When determining whether orders should be made, the court will look at all of the relevant factors in the case, with their paramount consideration being the welfare of the child. The court will also look at the child’s relationship with the parent they may be leaving behind, and whether this will be maintained or affected if a relocation is permitted, along with the connection the child has to a particular area.
It should also be noted that there is no presumption of exceptionality – this means that it is not only in ‘exceptional circumstances’ that the court will prevent a parent from making a move.
It is sometimes the case that a parent can plan a move without even telling the other parent. Where this happens, and the relocation is only discovered after the event, there may still be action that can be taken. For example, the court have the power to make orders for the child’s return until the matter can be explored properly.
Generally, if a parent does move without the other’s consent, it is in the hope that this will just be accepted. This is not advisable as it leaves children at risk of continued disruption should they then be required to return. Parents will also be at risk of court applications and costly proceedings.
A relocation outside of the Jurisdiction of England and Wales is dealt in a similar manner but, of course, this is more complicated than an internal relocation and removing a child from England and Wales without consent of every person with parental responsibility can be considered abduction. It is therefore important that such a move is not made without careful planning and consent.
Before making any concrete plans to relocate, whether in the Jurisdiction or otherwise, you should therefore consider the following:
- Speak to the other parent first and foremost – permission should be obtained prior to a move.
- Do not just move and hope for the best. This can lead to difficulties, and possibly court proceedings, at a later date.
- If you cannot reach an agreement, consider mediation and whether an application to the court is necessary. If so, ensure that this is lodged well in advance of the intended move to ensure that the court have enough time to deal with the matter.
- Make sure your plans are well thought out, to include plans for maintaining the child’s relationship with the other parent.
- It is always best to seek specialist legal advice
Should you require specialist advice about children or relocation matters, please call DFA Law on 01604 609560 and we will be happy to help.