After a divorce or separation, one of the most challenging and emotionally charged questions that often arises is, “Can I move abroad with my child after divorce or separation?”
The legal implications associated with relocating children abroad after a divorce or separation are intricate and emotionally sensitive, so it’s crucial to understand the legal framework involved in such decisions. Navigating this complex issue requires careful consideration of child welfare and legal procedures to ensure the best interests of the child are upheld.
The need for consent or court permission
To move abroad with minor children after divorce or separation, you must ﬁrst obtain the consent of the other parent or secure permission from the court. This is a fundamental requirement and it’s important to recognise that emotions can run high during this process.
If you plan to remain in the same country, technically, you may not need the other parent’s consent or court approval. However, in practice, the other parent may still have the ability to block the move and there are many court applications each year caused by such internal relocations. This, too, is a complex situation to navigate.
Seeking legal guidance
Relocating with children is a highly technical area of law that requires meticulous planning and preparation, especially when the other parent may oppose the move. If you want to move abroad with a child after divorce, It is important to consider the different agreement options available as well as the possible legal consequences of unauthorised relocation.
Seeking early legal advice from a family lawyer is essential as they can provide valuable insights and guide you through the process, helping you make informed decisions.
Exploring agreement options
As with any matters concerning children, it’s generally advisable to try to reach an agreement with the other parent ﬁrst. If direct negotiation is not possible, you can consider mediation, although it can be challenging to ﬁnd common ground.
Another important forum to consider is family law arbitration – more on this below.
Legal consequences of unauthorised relocation
Moving abroad with children after separation, without the consent of the other parent or court permission, can result in serious legal consequences. In some cases, it may even constitute a criminal offence. Understanding the potential legal repercussions is vital in making well-informed choices regarding your child’s relocation.
If you become aware that the custodial parent intends to move with the children, whether that is within the same country or abroad, you can apply to the court to block it through an emergency prohibited steps order.
These orders can be obtained quickly and trigger a comprehensive examination of the situation, all centred around the best interests of the children.
The paramount consideration: welfare of the children
The welfare of the child should always be prioritised by all parties involved when relocation is being considered. Any judge handling relocation requests or prohibited steps applications will prioritise the welfare of the children above all else. This means conducting thorough research and presenting compelling evidence regarding the proposed arrangements, including:
The reasons for the move:
- Housing arrangements and the local area/amenities
- Schooling and educational plans
- Strategies for maintaining ongoing contact with the other parent
- Considerations related to extended family members and other relevant parties
The objections raised by the non-relocating parent will be carefully evaluated to determine if they are genuine and in the best interests of the child.
The Welfare Checklist
To ensure the child’s best interests are met, judges follow a Welfare Checklist. This checklist involves a comprehensive evaluation of each parent’s proposals, including:
- The child’s wishes and feelings, taking into account their age and understanding
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The potential impact of the move on the child’s circumstances
- The child’s age, gender, background and other relevant characteristics
- Any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering, including the impact on the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent, as well as the consequences of a refusal on the parent seeking to move
Arbitration as an alternative
It is often not possible to agree on such matters directly between parents and the decision is binary: to move or not to move. Compromise can therefore be difﬁcult or impossible, even in the most amicable situations, giving mediation and such alternative dispute resolution options limited effect.
Court proceedings are often slow, stressful and expensive for handling relocation cases. An increasingly popular alternative nowadays is arbitration. This process can only take place if both parties agree to it.
In arbitration, a qualiﬁed arbitrator is appointed to adjudicate the matter, with a role similar to that of a judge in court proceedings. Experts, such as independent social workers, can be appointed jointly to assess the situation, including speaking to the children to ascertain their wishes and feelings, mirroring court proceedings.
While arbitration may involve additional costs, it often proves more efﬁcient because it is tailored to the speciﬁc needs of the case. Arbitration hearings can be conducted in the comfort and privacy of solicitors’ ofﬁces, with all necessary facilities available. Hearing dates can be scheduled to accommodate all parties and last-minute changes can be easily accommodated. Moreover, the same arbitrator presides over each hearing or written application, ensuring consistency, unlike the often-changing judges in court proceedings.
In cases involving relocation, the primary advantage of arbitration is its speed. Many individuals seeking to relocate have time constraints due to factors such as new jobs, school term dates and new relationships. Courts that are currently dealing with high caseloads are rarely able to assist with the expediency truly required, and prolonged litigation can signiﬁcantly increase costs and stress, potentially causing lasting damage to delicate relationships.
How Morr & Co can help with child relocation abroad after divorce
In conclusion, when considering moving abroad with your child after a divorce or separation, it is vital to be well-informed about the legal requirements and emotional complexities involved. Seeking legal guidance, exploring agreement options and, if necessary, considering arbitration can help you navigate this challenging process while prioritising the best interests of your children.
If you would like to discuss your situation with an experienced solicitor, our experienced family team will be able to answer any questions you may have. You can contact them by email [email protected] or by calling 01737 854500.