Following divorce, it is not unusual for one member of the divorced couple to move away. When children are involved, and the relocation will take children away from their other parent, emotions can run high. It’s a situation most good family solicitors will experience relatively frequently – but not always when there is an international dimension. This brings additional complications to what is already a difficult and emotional situation for the individuals involved.
Reasons for international relocation
In many ways, the reasons for international relocation are no different to the reasons for relocation within the UK. In this world where international travel is common, and where people move around and form relationships across the globe, it’s also common for couples from different countries to have children and sometimes, sadly, to split up. Following a split, some may want to move on geographically as well as personally. They may wish to return to their country of origin to be with family and to make sure their children understand more of their heritage. In other cases, the parent may have been offered a new career opportunity in a different country or may wish to move to a place where they perceive there to be a better quality of life. Equally, there are cases where a parent will move to be with a new partner, or simply to ‘get away and start again’.
Concerns around international relocation
If you talk to any top family lawyer in London and ask them about the concerns around international relocation following divorce, they will explain a number of points that make this subject complex and give cause for concern.
- Compromise rarely offers an answer
Although a huge amount of compromise is involved in family life, and in divorce, compromise will rarely be the answer when one parent wishes to move abroad with the children of the relationship. The parent will either move with their children or not.
- International relocation complicates access arrangements
When a parent moves within the UK following a divorce and increases the distance between children and the other parent, access arrangements become tricky. Children who might be able to see their other parent regularly during the week have to wait till weekends or school holidays. When there is an international dimension to the relocation, there are added complications – the costs of travel, and potential immigration issues to name 2.
- Attitudes towards family life have changed
It is far more common for parents to take a more equal approach to childcare, making it harder to prioritise one parent’s rights over another when it comes to dealing with international relocation applications.
- Every case is different
Whether you’re the parent looking to move abroad with your children, or the parent who fears they will be separated from their children, it’s vital to get good advice early in the process from the best family solicitors you can find. This is because every case depends on its own facts and it’s almost impossible to second guess how the courts will look an application for an order in relation to relocation.
Matters to consider when seeking a court order
- Obtaining consent – or a court order
There is an automatic restriction where a child arrangements order is in place which means that you can’t take a child out of the UK for more than a month without written consent of everyone with parental responsibility. If you are considering a longer term move abroad with your children, and the other parent has parental responsibility and will not agree, you will have to apply for a leave to remove order under the Children Act 1989. Even if there is no child arrangements order in place, it may be as well to seek a specific issue order relating to the move.
- The welfare principle
As with any application involving children, the court will prioritise the welfare of the children involved above everything else. Beyond that, there are a number of other matters that a court hearing the competing arguments for an against an application relating to international relocation will consider.
- No presumption in favour of a parent with a Child Arrangements Order
Both parents will have a plan of what should happen. The Court must evaluate the competing proposals fairly – even if one parent has a child arrangements order in their favour, this will not mean that their plan takes precedence.
- The motivations of the parents
The Court will look less favourably on a parent who appears to be intent on thwarting their former partner’s plans, or deliberately intent on separating the other parent from his or her children, than on a parent with a plan focused on a positive future for the children.
- The impact on the child and the child’s relationship with the other parent
Key to any decision, and fundamental to the welfare of the child, is to consider the child’s wishes and feelings (although the child won’t be asked to choose between parents). The court will also be keen to know how contact will be maintained with the other parent.
- The Hague Convention
The Hague Convention deals with the recognition of legal arrangements made in one country by the jurisdiction in another. Signatory countries will recognise court orders made in respect of children by the courts of another signatory country. If a parent proposes a move to a non-Hague Convention country, the court may be more reluctant to agree to the move. This is because any arrangements regarding contact that are made in the domestic courts will be unenforceable. The parent left behind would be in a very weak position with respect to seeing his or her children in future.
Whether you are hoping to move to a new country following the breakdown of your relationship, or you are worried that your former partner is planning to take your children abroad permanently, it’s vital to take advice from top family solicitors in London who are experienced at dealing with sensitive matters such as this.
OTS Solicitors have a dedicated team of divorce and family lawyers with extensive experience of handling complex family matters such as international relocation. Whether you are the parent hoping to relocate with your children, or the parent facing reduced contact with your children following a move abroad by your former partner, we can help. Book your appointment today by calling 0203 959 9123.
Posted on: Monday, 04 June, 2018