Are you thinking about moving with your child?
Whether you are moving for a new job, new relationship or perhaps to be closer to your family, you should agree your proposed move with your children’s other parent in advance and if possible, set out your proposal in writing with granular detail. This will allow the other parent to give the proposal due consideration rather than immediately objecting. Of course, this is not always possible and if an agreement cannot be reached mediation, negotiations through solicitors, or a court application may be necessary.
Elaine Flynn of Arthurs Solicitors, gives her advice on this very important issue.
Relocation can be internal (within England or the UK) or external (overseas). Anyone with parental responsibility for a child should consent, otherwise a court order will be required. Parents should not move without consent and it would be ill-advised to do so as you could be accused of child abduction and made subject to a court order to return your child, potentially hampering your chances of a successful application in the future.
The key things to think about when considering a relocation are;
- What is in the best interests of your children and what are your children’s wishes and feelings about the proposed relocation?
- What is your motivation for moving? It is highly unlikely the court will grant an order where it is established the move is designed to create distance between a child and the other parent, to interfere or stop their relationship. Think about what impact the relocation will have upon your children’s relationship with the other parent (and their extended family) and how can this be adequately addressed?
- Is the other parent likely to object, and if so why? If you can work this out in advance, you have a much better chance of providing sincere and suitable answers to their concerns in the hope of reaching an agreement without the need for proceedings. Put yourself in their shoes and write out the issues that they are likely to raise.
- What time will the other parent spend with your children, and how often will travel be facilitated by you, realistically? For example, will you be prepared to share holidays, as this will be the key time when your children will be off school, and how will costs be met? Likewise, can the other parent visit your new area to spend time with your children, and where could they stay?
- It is worthwhile describing your new proposed life. Think carefully and research what time your children will spend with you, and when they are not with you who will look after them. Consider, what kind of life and standard of living your children will enjoy, and how can this be compared to their current circumstances? For example, are you moving for a new job, that will result in increased disposable income? Will your new location offer good transport links, educational opportunities, or outdoor lifestyle experiences? If so, all this information should be explained.
The court process
The court will expect a thorough investigation of how the children’s new lives would work out and therefore this plan should be outlined from the start. Think about schools and whether they have a place available and whether your children will meet their criteria. Furthermore, consider what family support is on offer, how will you survive financially, what medical support there is and whether you can register with a GP. Are there any risks that might be alleged, or any issues that could arise in facilitating proposed contact?
The above lists are not exhaustive, and you should research and gather evidence to support everything you wish to say.
The views of the other parent
You should be prepared for the other parent to explain that they are concerned there will be a reduction in the amount of time that the children spend with him or her, and although you may seek to reassure them about this, it is unlikely to be enough. It will be worth trying to agree a sincere and well-considered structure of contact arrangements that can be relied upon. You will need to be able to explain how your children will be able to maintain their relationship. Fortunately, these days indirect contact via Skype or FaceTime during long periods between direct contact helps to alleviate the significant burden relocation of a child can bring.
It may not be an easy journey…
Relocation cases can become particularly fraught, as there is a lot at stake for the other parent. If a court application becomes necessary, it is important to understand that such applications could take anywhere from 6 to 12 months, if not more, to conclude in determining the matter. Therefore, if you are considering a relocation it will be important to acknowledge that this may not happen straight away, and there could be a court timetable to comply with before any final decision is made.
For a move overseas you should also think about whether a court order obtained can be registered in your new country.
If you are considering a relocation, or you wish to oppose a relocation, seek out specialist legal advice and assistance for the best chances of success.
Elaine Flynn features in The Hug Directory and you can also follow her on instagram @ef_familylaw. She has experience of dealing with some very complex children’s cases…