In this article, we look at the law surrounding relocating a child abroad. As with relocating a child in the UK, taking a child overseas is a complex and sensitive issue. So, here’s what you need to know.
Amid the school summer holidays, we often see a rise in the number of enquiries we get from a parent asking whether their former partner can take a child to live abroad. However, relocating a child abroad depends on several factors such as who has parental responsibility for the child? And does the UK family court have jurisdiction over the child?
Family court jurisdiction
If the family court has jurisdiction over a child, then one parent will be unable to relocate a child overseas unless they have the permission of the parent with parental responsibility or a court order.
However, if one parent plans on relocating a child abroad and the other one objects, then several outcomes are possible:
- An application can be made to the family court to request permission to relocate a child overseas or the parent objecting could apply to the court to prohibit any move out of the UK
- If a court order isn’t granted, a parent can still move abroad, but will be unable to take the child. A parent can prohibit the relocation of a child overseas, but cannot stop a former partner from leaving the UK.
- A parent moves abroad with a child without the other parent’s permission or a court order. However, this is considered child abduction and could lead to criminal charges, while the child would be brought back to the UK under the Hague Convention.
Making child arrangements if you divorce or separate
Preventing overseas child relocation
If you’re a parent in fear of your child being taken overseas without your permission or a court order, then you can apply to the family court for a Prohibited Steps Order, which prohibits the removal of a child from the UK by another parent.
However, it’s important to ensure that any evidence you have of any potential plans by the other parent to relocate a child overseas is assessed by a family lawyer before applying to court.
Relocating a child abroad: How does the court decide?
The family court always has a child’s best interests at heart when presiding over cases involving potential relocation abroad. The court takes into account several factors known as the ‘welfare checklist’.
The court also has to consider the impact of relocating a child abroad on the parent that is being ‘left behind’.
With so much at stake, the court will reach a decision based on all of the evidence available, while considering the interests of the child and each parent.