Parents following the ITV soap Emmerdale may have been surprised to learn via the recent storyline that relocating with your child is not such a straightforward move and can be an extremely distressing time for all involved. In this programme a couple who separated before the birth of their child are engaged in court proceedings because the mother wishes to move New Zealand with the child and her new partner. The child’s father is opposed to the move which would mean him missing out on a lot of his young child’s life. Although New Zealand is thousands of miles away and so it is somewhat reasonable to expect a degree of objection from the other parent, most parents will be even more surprised to learn that the other parent can object to a relocation even if the parent with day to day care of the child wishes to move within the United Kingdom i.e. from London to Devon.
Most parents are taken aback to hear that they can be prevented from moving to a different country or even a different city or town within the UK because the other parent, from whom they are now separated or even divorced, can raise lawful objection. For many parents this is a huge issue which can and does lead to court battles, as is being played out in the current episodes of Emmerdale.
The law on relocation is governed by the Children Act 1989 and its interpretation by case law and of course no two cases are the same. The main concern of the court is the welfare of the child. The circumstances of each individual case will have to be considered by the court. It is historically more difficult to obtain permission from the court to relocate abroad than to relocate to within the UK however, the tide seems to be changing making it equally as challenging to relocate, even if the relocation’s just a short distance away, if it means contact with the other parent will be disturbed or reduced in any way.
The welfare of the child is the paramount consideration in these cases and the issue for the court when making any decision on relocation will be ‘Is it in the best interests of the child?’ In deciding this the court will have a number of things to consider and any parent wishing to relocate is advised to be well prepared to address the following:
- The reasonableness of the proposed relocation i.e. the schooling, housing, family ties, financial benefits and employment prospects for the parent;
- The reason for the relocation;
- The effects upon the parent wishing to relocate if permission is refused i.e. usually a detrimental one forcing the parent to stay in a place where they are unhappy, isolated from family and friends and have limited prospects is not usually an attractive option;
- The effect upon the child of the denial of or reduction in contact with the other parent;
- The proposed arrangements for contact between the child and the other parent;
- The child’s wishes, where the child is of an age and maturity to express his/her opinion.
Prior to making any decision to relocate, where you are not living with the child’s other parent, you are best advised to seek the agreement of the other parent. If the other parent does not agree to the relocation then you are required to seek permission from the Court before you can relocate out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales with the child. Even on a move to another place within England and Wales, agreement should be reached as the other parent can seek to prevent the move. You should seek legal advice at your earliest opportunity to give your Application the best chance of success.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss relocation further please contact Mackrell Turner Garrett for specialist advice.