Relocating with your children after separation

Family breakdowns can be incredibly difficult and, unfortunately, sometimes acrimonious. Not only can it be painful personally but it also requires people to pick apart their lives; their finances and to think about any change in the arrangements for their children.

One of the possible considerations is one person relocating to a new area to get a fresh start or to start a new relationship. This could be within the UK or even relocating abroad.

However, this is not always straightforward in circumstances where the other parent does not consent to the children moving or if they refuse to facilitate any long-distance contact. It is therefore important to understand what the law says and how to take the appropriate action if necessary. The guidance on relocating abroad is somewhat clearer than internal relocation within the UK but it also carries more serious sanctions if those rules are breached. For example, if you were to take your child abroad without the permission of any person who shares parental responsibility for that child, you could be prosecuted for child abduction.

The Law on Relocation

The Children Act 1989 sets out the framework for the courts when making decisions about children. The Act sets out a welfare checklist, which should be applied to decision making to achieve an outcome that is in the children’s best interests.

Under that Act, applications for Specific Issue Orders can be made. These orders deal with a specific question or dispute between parties who share parental responsibility. A Specific Issue Order is generally what is being applied for when seeking an order for permission to relocate the children.
It is also common place for an application for a Child Arrangements Order to be made simultaneously. Such an order sets out with whom a child should live and with whom they should have contact. It can also be arrangements for the shared care of a child and does not necessarily mean a primary carer needs to be identified even in circumstances where a child does not reside with each parent for an equal amount of time.

The Courts do promote trying to reach agreement prior to any court application and there is a requirement to mediate unless one of the relevant exemptions apply. It is therefore important to be open about any intention to relocate and to endeavour to reach agreement.
If you cannot reach agreement despite your best efforts, then you should make an application to relocate. In circumstances where this is abroad, this is often called a “leave to remove” application.

Considerations for relocation with children

The Court will always consider the best interests of the children. It will also consider how the other party will be able to continue to have a relationship with their children. Any application made must have a clear best interests motivation and not be because distance is sought from the other parent.
Both internal and external relocations bring about the same considerations and are approached in a similar manner; it just may be that more thought is required about practical arrangements when it is an application to leave the jurisdiction.

In all likelihood, you will be expected to file a substantive statement setting out all the positive reasons for relocating and the benefit that any move would have upon the children. This could be things like financial considerations and lifestyle, schooling, support network and stable family life. There also needs to be significant information about practical arrangements for contact as well as indirect contact, such as Skype/Facetime or telephone calls. This will be the most important part of the evidence in the case and, given these types of cases tend to be so finely balanced, it is advisable to seek legal advice and assistance at this crucial stage.
Similarly, if you were in receipt of an application for relocation and did not want the children to move, your statement is vital and, again, you should consider the best interests of the children and why you are saying they should not be given permission to move.

GoodLaw Solicitors LLP have many years’ experience in dealing with relocation applications / Family Law and our Partner, Emma Taylor, is a member of Reunite International (www.reunite.org) which offers support and assistance in cases of child abduction. If you require assistance with your relocation case or wish to set up a free initial consultation, please contact us on family@goodlawsolicitors.co.uk.