Ian Walker

Ian Walker – Founder/ Director/ Solicitor/ Mediator/ Arbitrator

Relocation – Within UK

Relocation cases can be very difficult and hotly contested. The normal scenario is that one parent wishes to move to a different part of the country or overseas and this is opposed by the other parent because of the disruption that will be caused to their relationship with their children.

This page deals with relocation cases within the UK. There is a page on relocation outside of the UK here.

If there is an existing Child Arrangements Order and the parent wishes to relocate the child outside of the UK – then they need to obtain the permission of the other parent – or a new court order.

There is no equivalent provision for relocation within the UK – but if there is an existing Child Arrangements Order which sets out arrangements by which children spend time with the parent who is not moving – then the order will need to be varied.

It is generally expected that a parent who has parental responsibility for their children should consult with and reach legal 500 leading firm logoagreement with others with parental responsibility – which would normally include the other parent and seek agreement prior to the move.

A unilateral move where the other parent has not been consulted or even notified will normally be frowned upon by the court.

Here is a link to the judicial protocol which relates to moves between England and Wales, and Scotland and vice versa.

Historically moves within the UK were treated differently to relocation outside of the UK

Historically the court would only restrict a parent’s right to live anywhere in the UK in exceptional circumstances. This interpretation of the law was reviewed by the Court of Appeal in 2015 and the Court of Appeal took the view that the law relating to internal relocation cases within the UK and external/international relocation cases was the same.

What the law says about internal relocation

Essentially the law is that the court will apply the welfare checklist in the Children Act to the specific facts of each individual case.

In other words, the move needs to be justified on the basis that it is in the child’s welfare. The court will therefore be extremely interested in the impact of the move on the relationship between the child and their other parent.

The court clearly has a lot of discretion and success or failure of an application will depend upon how well the evidence in support of the move or against the move is put together and how well the case is presented.

Whilst the law is broad – the courts have from time to time given guidance as to how each application might be considered. This page was written in December 2020. At this time the guidance suggests that the judge considering the case should ask the following questions to help them clarify whether the move is justified and in the child’s interests:

(the questions are framed on the basis that the child’s mother is seeking to move the child):

  1. is the mother’s application genuine in the sense that it is not motivated by some selfish desire to exclude the father from the child’s life?
  2. is the mother’s application realistically founded on practical proposals both well researched and investigated?
  3. what would be the impact on the mother, either as the single parent or as a new wife, of a refusal of her realistic proposal?
  4. is the father’s opposition motivated by genuine concern for the future of the child’s welfare or is it driven by some ulterior motive?
  5. what would be the extent of the detriment to him and his future relationship with the child were the application granted?
  6. to what extent would that detriment be offset by extension of the child’s relationships with the maternal family and homeland?
  7. since the circumstances in which such decisions have to be made vary infinitely and the judge in each case has to be free to decide whatever is in the best interests of the child, such guidance should not be applied rigidly as if it contains principles from which no departure is permitted
  8. there is no legal principle, let alone some legal or evidential presumption, in favour of an application to relocate by a primary carer. The old statements which seem to favour applications to relocate made by primary carers are no more than a reflection of the reality of the human condition and the parent-child relationship
  9. the hearing must not get mired in taxonomical arguments or preliminary skirmishes as to what label should be applied to the case by virtue of either the time spent with each of the parents or other aspects of the care arrangements

These cases can be extremely emotive. Anyone who is thinking of relocating or faced with the possibility of a relocation should seek legal advice.

These cases do not have to end up in court

If the court allows the move or if the move is agreed – how contact arrangements work will in the future be a significant consideration. Whatever is agreed or ordered – the parents will then need to make work (for the benefit of their children).

If the move is genuinely motivated – then the case could be very suitable for collaborative family law for family mediation. Possibly more for collaborative family law as having the lawyers very much in the process could be extremely valuable/helpful.

But whatever the situation – it must be remembered that all cases are different and specific legal advice should be sought.

More on this topic

Judicial Protocol for Children’s Cases in Scotland, and England and Wales
Judicial Protocol for Children’s Cases in Scotland, and England and Wales

Here is a link to the 2018 protocol

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