Relocation, Relocation Relocation! Family Law Partners Blog

Relocation, Relocation Relocation!

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This is the first of a two-part article dealing with the issues surrounding one parent’s decision to relocate with their child away from the area they currently live in.

Internal relocation

This article deals with the relocation from one part of the UK to another part; internal relocation. The UK is defined for these purposes as being England, Wales and Scotland, together with Northern Ireland. However, it does not include the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.

Internal relocation cases are some of the most difficult cases the family courts have to tackle. As you would expect the issue generates strong feelings at what is already likely to be a difficult time for the family.

For many separated parents it can feel like a loss all over again. They might be concerned that the time they spend with their child will be reduced significantly and will impact on their future relationship. It might create financial pressure having to travel long distances.

The suspicion might be that the proposed move is a deliberate attempt to dilute the other parent’s relationship with the child or that the other parent is running away. For the parent wishing to move, there might be feelings of injustice that they are unable to get on with their own lives and careers; and their basic human right to freedom of movement within their own country is being compromised.

Different circumstances

The desire for internal relocation can arise for a number of different circumstances. The most common of which are: –

  • The parent has been offered employment in another part of the UK and/or their job role is being relocated;
  • The parent has re-married or is in a new relationship and the new partner lives in another part of the UK;
  • The parent wishes to return to the part of the country they grew up in to be closer to their friends and family following separation;
  • The parent wants to relocate with the child for lifestyle reasons e.g. moving from a town to the countryside or coast;
  • The parent wants to relocate to start afresh.

Surprisingly, there is no rule preventing someone moving from say Brighton to Edinburgh. However, what we do have is case law providing guidance about this area of the law and the correct approach to take to resolve internal relocation disputes. There are also issues such as a change of school that will impact on a parent taking pre-emptive action.

Of course, it is important to note that if both parents agree to an internal relocation, there is no issue. However, restrictions on time with their children, geographical and financial issues are often at the forefront of parents’ disagreements. Whatever the outcome it is a matter of good and responsible parenting to provide the other parent (and all those with parental responsibility) with details of the proposed move well in advance of the move itself. This is vital if a change of school is planned as that is an issue of the highest importance for the children involved.

Specific Issue Order

If an agreement cannot be reached, then the parent wishing to relocate needs to make an application to the court for a Specific Issue Order under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. The parent who wishes to stop an internal relocation must apply for a Prohibited Steps Order under the same Act. Before making the application parents should attend a MIAM (Mediation Information Assessment Meeting) to see if matters can be resolved through Mediation.

Until recently the considerations a court had to take into account when dealing with internal relocation cases were similar, although far less stringent, to those for external relocation cases (which will be covered in part two of this article).

Previously the law had suggested that a left-behind parent may have to demonstrate exceptional circumstances in order to prevent a move – a test which does not apply in external relocation cases. This was challenged in the recent case of Re C (A Child) [2015].

The Court of Appeal in this case effectively aligned the law between internal and external relocation cases making it clear that exceptionality forms no part in the principles to be applied. As such, the overriding principle in both types of cases is the welfare of the child and in reaching its decision the court is required to carry out a global, holistic evaluation of the circumstances of the case including the proposals of both parents and the wishes of the child. It was emphasised that the court should always approach the case to see if there is a way in which the move can be made to work so as to ensure that the parents conflicting concerns are accommodated as far as possible.

Welfare principle

So, the court will need to base its decision in an internal relocation matter upon the test that the child’s welfare is to be the principal factor the paramount consideration – in any decision. This is known as the ‘welfare principle’ and provides the foundation stone of how the court deals with Child Arrangement Orders. The relevant factors contained within the welfare check list set out at section 1 (1) Children Act 1989 will apply.

In short, and with the welfare principle firmly in the court’s mind, the court must look at all the circumstances and facts of the case in order to make a decision as to whether relocation is in the child’s best interests. As with all these sorts of cases planning and preparation of the application will be key. That planning should have, at its heart, the arrangements for the children to be spending time with their other parent when that has been a regular feature of the child’s life.

Please contact us to discuss your circumstances if you are thinking ofrelocating with your child(ren) away from the area they currently live after a separation or divorce.

4 responses on “Relocation, Relocation Relocation!

  1. With England and Wales being within the same jurisdiction, do I still need to obtain permission from my child’s father to move from England to Wales?

    1. Dear Laura, thank you for your comment. There is no rule preventing someone moving from England to Wales. However, as you will have read, it is a matter of good and responsible parenting to provide your child?s father with details of your intentions well in advance of the move itself. This is vital if a change of school is planned and/or a change to the contact arrangements. If your child?s father does not agree to the move then he can seek a Prohibited Steps order from the family court preventing you from moving your child away from England. We would strongly recommend inviting your child?s father to Mediation to discuss your planned move.

  2. I wish to move to move from East London to Folkestone with my 8 year old son, my partner and our younger son. Door to door travel to the father’s home will be around 1h10 on the train or 1h30 in the car. I have offered more contact time than he has now, living 10 mins away, but he would have two nights/wk instead of three. He will not give permission for the move. I can’t find similar cases online. Is that because I would simply be allowed to relocate such a small distance? I argue it is in the child’s best interests to move, I have a solid plan with school research etc. The main reason is lifestyle and financial. Housing in London is out of our budget. There we could live in a house with a garden and a bedroom for each child, as opposed to a small rented flat.

    1. Dear Natasha, thank you for getting in touch. We would recommend inviting your former partner to Mediation in the first instance to see if an agreement can be reached. If this isn’t possible you may need to consider applying to the court or asking your former partner to consider Arbitration. As you will have read much will depend on what is in the best interests of the children and ensuring that you have a very clear and practical plan. You may find this article helpful which although focuses on ‘external relocations’ the same principles apply for an ‘internal relocation’.

      We would also recommend seeking advice from a family law specialist who is a member of Resolution. If we can assist on a formal basis please get in touch.

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