Relocation after Separation: What you need to know...

Sarah Robson
Sarah Robson

Published: January 5th, 2024

3 min

What happens if one parent wishes to relocate with a child, either within the UK or abroad, following separation?

  • How can you stop them?

  • How can you persuade the court it is right for the child to be allowed to relocate?

  • What approach does the court take?

Here we try and help with those questions and understand what can be done through the family court.

Cases where a parent is seeking to relocate with a child are said by Judges to be amongst the most difficult for the family courts to decide. The court has to determine what is in the best interests of that child, focusing on the principles set out in section 1 of the Children Act 1989. The reason these cases are so difficult is because the child may well have their needs fully met in both locations, but the loss to the parent who doesn't succeed can be devastating. In many cases now when parents separate they adopt a form of shared care, where the child/ren spend time with both parents. If one seeks to relocate, even within the UK, those arrangements can very rarely be maintained. That means one parent will inevitably spend a considerably smaller amount of time with their child.

If you want to relocate with a child to another part of the Country, or abroad, you need to apply to court for permission unless the other parent agrees. Similarly if you seek to prevent a move you can apply for a prohibited steps order to prevent the move taking place. Sometimes these applications need to be conducted urgently if a parent is moving in spite of your objection.

The key to successful applications to relocate with a child is recognise the impact on the other parent. It is important to factor in what arrangements you will make for the child to spend time with the other parent, will you provide financial assistance for this? The reason for the relocation is very important, as is thorough research of the area you are moving to. You need to research schools, accommodation, local facilities, family support, time and cost of travel to see the other parent.

If you seek to prevent a move you need to focus on the current arrangements and persuade a court that moving is not in the child's best interests. Again focus on family relationships, how settled the child is. If relevant demonstrate that the move is motivated for the wrong reasons, or the planned move has not been properly considered. What is the detriment to the child if the move goes ahead?

The wishes and feelings of the child are relevant although not always determinative. The court also needs to consider the needs of the child, and the effect of any change of circumstances

In either application there is no benefit in denigrating the other parent. The court won't be interested in the other parent's past failings unless absolutely relevant. The key to successful applications, either way, is solid research and a well balanced and considered application, giving the court all the relevant information in a child focused manner.

If you need help and advice please get in touch with Sarah Robson on the details below.

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