If following a relationship breakdown you are thinking about relocating abroad with your children, you will need to be aware of the relevant legal rules. You will need specialist advice from a solicitor to help the relocation to take place smoothly. In the excitement of a move abroad, taking legal advice may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, making sure the legal boxes have been ticked will mean that there are fewer complications following the move, leaving you and your family to enjoy your new home.
When do situations of child relocation arise?
The desire to relocate with children often occurs in international families where one parent is from another country and wishes to return to their home country following a relationship breakdown. This commonly happens when that parent wants to be closer to their family or maybe they have a new job offer abroad. Sometimes the parent has a new partner who lives aboard or they together decide for lifestyle or other reasons that a relocation is the best thing for their new family.
Can I just leave with my children if I want to relocate abroad?
Relocation to outside of England and Wales requires permission of the other parent and anyone else that has parental responsibility (as indeed does a holiday unless there is a relevant Court Order already). Parental responsibility gives a person rights and responsibilities for the children which includes the right to decide whether a relocation takes place. A mother will automatically have parental responsibility. A father will also have it if he meets certain criteria. Sometimes, others may have parental responsibility too, such as grandparents. Your solicitor will check all this for you.
How do I seek permission to relocate with my children?
You can seek permission directly or with the assistance of a solicitor. Seeking specialist legal advice at the earliest possible stage is sensible as your solicitor will provide you with lots of useful advice about how best to increase your chances of gaining permission. At the beginning, you may not want the other parent to know that you have a solicitor. Therefore your solicitor will guide you on how best to ask for permission yourself. It is always a good idea to get the permission in writing and your solicitor will advise you about this.
Relocating with children without the necessary permission is child abduction and this is why it is really important that you have specialist legal advice early.
What do I do if the other parent refuses their permission to the relocation?
Unless some exceptions apply, you would need to attempt mediation with the other parent. Mediation is an alternative way of resolving a dispute without going to Court. An impartial and professionally qualified mediator will assist you to reach a mutually acceptable settlement after exploring the issues around the relocation. Your solicitor can recommend an appropriate mediator and you can continue to consult with your solicitor in between mediation sessions. If mediation is successful and you reach an agreement with the other parent then it will be possible to make that agreement legally binding so that once you have relocated, you cannot be accused of child abduction. If mediation is not successful, your solicitor will advise you about making a Court application for the Court’s permission for the relocation.
Is my Court application to relocate with my children likely to succeed?
The success of your application will depend on very thorough planning. You will need to show the Court that the relocation is in your children’s best interests. Most parents will only be considering relocating if they truly believe it is best for their children. One of the things your solicitor will do to show this to the Court is to prepare extremely detailed written evidence setting out why your relocation is important to your family, how it is in your children’s best interests and how it can work taking into account the practical factors such as the children’s development, schooling, housing needs and contact with the other parent. This is a very involved part of the legal process and you will need to work closely with your solicitor on this.
What happens when I have successfully relocated with my children?
You may have some things to tie up either just before you relocate or shortly after, depending on what the relocation Order specifies. This might be registering the English Order in the country to which you relocate, this can be helpful for both parents. Your solicitor will help you and put you in touch with a lawyer in the other country if needed.
Permission to relocate will give you peace of mind that you have legally done what is needed and so your move cannot be undone.
Mandeep Gill is a specialist Family Law solicitor at Venters Solicitors in Reigate. Mandeep’s particular expertise is in international children cases.
She can be contacted on 01737 229610 or via email, mandeep.gill@venters co.uk or visit www.venters co.uk