Court of appeal clarifies law on internal relocation
By Amanda Erskine
In a recent case the Court of Appeal (the second highest court in England and Wales), has clarified the law relating to internal relocation.
It can often be difficult for separated parents to agree on a contact structure that works for both parties and is in the best interests of the children involved. It can be even more of a challenge when one parent wishes to relocate with the children. There have been numerous cases surrounding this issue, dealing with both internal relocations (moving to another part of the United Kingdom) and international relocations. At all times the court will put the children’s best interests as the first consideration and will then look at a number of factors and the whole circumstances of the case including why the parent wants to relocate and how contact can be facilitated with the parent staying behind.
The case heard recently in the Court of Appeal involved a father who was appealing a decision which allowed the mother to relocate with the couple’s child from London to Cumbria. The initial judgment stipulated that the child was to live with her father on alternate weekends, alternating between Cumbria and London. If the father was able to travel to Cumbria during the week, then the child was to be in his care overnight for up to two nights a week. There was also provision for daily contact on other days by telephone, Skype or Facetime.
The court found that the existing law suggested that a left-behind parent might have to demonstrate ‘exceptional circumstances’ in order to prevent a move, a test which does not apply in international cases. In dismissing the father’s appeal, the Court of Appeal confirmed that there is no distinction between cases of internal relocation and international relocation, and that:
“the only test that the court applies is the paramount principle as to the welfare of the child. The application of that test involves a holistic balancing exercise … of all the relevant factors, which may vary hugely from case to case, weighing one against the other, with the objective of determining which of the available options best meets the requirement to afford paramount consideration to the welfare of the child.”
At Barker Gotelee we can offer a free consultation for any parent who has separated from their partner and is struggling to agree contact and living arrangements for their children.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.