There are a number of factors to consider when moving home, and it can be a very busy time for any family. Matters can be complicated when you’re co-parenting with an ex-partner, especially if they do not agree to the child moving area. A move within the same town isn’t likely to cause many difficulties. However a move to a different part of England and Wales (internal relocation) or abroad (international relocation) can involve very significant changes for a child.
If two (or more) persons with parental responsibility for a child do not agree to a child relocating, the appropriate course is to first try other forms of dispute resolution, such as mediation. If mediation cannot help resolve the issue, then the parent seeking to make the move should apply to the court for a specific issue order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989. They will need to provide the court with detailed information as to the reasons they want to move, where they are going to live, where the child will attend school or nursery and the suitability of that school/nursery to the particular child and their needs, what the arrangements are going to be for healthcare, and what will be put in place to maintain the relationship that the child has with their left-behind parent and other family (as well as who is going to pay for any expenses such as travelling for contact). The left-behind parent will have to explain why they do not think that these new arrangements are best for the child, and instead they should remain where they are. The court will make a determination as to where the child should live, based solely on which set of arrangements are best in accordance with their welfare needs. The courts can take some considerable time to hear these cases, and some parents decide to submit to private children arbitration which can be much faster and arranged at the parties’ convenience.
If you think that your child’s other parent is moving anyway without your consent, then it is possible to apply to the court for an urgent prohibited steps order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989, and the court can stop the parent from removing the child from the area (especially in the short-term). The court would then conduct the full process described above in deciding where the child should live in the longer-term, in accordance with their best interests.
In some cases, the other parent may have already moved with the child. This will usually make things much more difficult. In internal relocation cases it is possible to apply to the court for a specific issue order for the child to be returned to their previous area, but the court will also take into consideration the upset that could be caused to the child by another move or upheaval in the short term, as well as what the arrangements will be when they get back. In international relocation cases a court can also make a specific issue order, but parallel proceedings may well be needed in the destination country too (if possible) under the appropriate international child abduction laws of that country (whether they are a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction will usually be highly relevant). You should seek urgent legal advice in these circumstances. If you fear that your child has been or is at risk of being abducted internationally, you may also wish to contact the ICACU – International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (https://www.hcch.net/en/states/authorities/details3/?aid=132).
If you want to talk about relocation further, or have more general concerns surrounding your child and want some advice, please do not hesitate to contact Kamal, Callie or Alison.