Relocating with children after divorce or separation
By Josephine Hayes
Divorce and separation can be a harrowing and unpleasant time for everyone involved. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for separated parents to battle through a divorce or separation and gradually rebuild a tentative relationship as co-parents only to discover that the other parent wishes to relocate to the back of beyond and take the children with them.
Whilst there is statutory protection preventing a parent who has a child arrangements order (CAO) from removing the children from the UK for more than a month, without the permission of everyone who holds parental responsibility, there is no such restriction if that parent seeks to move internally within the UK.
All too often a situation will arise where:
- One parent wishes to return to live near family/friends after the separation.
- One parent is in a new relationship and the new partner’s job has been relocated to another part of the country.
- One parent is offered employment in another part of the UK.
- One party wants to relocate to enhance their lifestyle.
Situations where the children inform daddy that they’re moving to Scotland at the weekend should clearly be avoided. The correct procedure would be to seek agreement with the other parent and keep them informed from the outset.
Moving can be difficult enough for children without the added worry of losing contact with a parent.
In a recent case Re C (Internal Relocation)  EWCA 1305 the Court of Appeal has provided guidance and reiterated that the primary consideration must be the welfare of the children concerned. The court must carry out a comprehensive analysis of the welfare considerations but there is no requirement on the court to subject its conclusions to a cross-check by considering whether the interference with the parents ECHR rights is justified. The Court of Appeal held that the same principles should be applied to internal relocation as to external relocation and the decision on whether to allow the relocation will hinge on what is in the best interests of the child concerned.
In this case the mother wanted to move from London to Cumbria with her 10 year old daughter. The father objected. The child wanted to move but there was a welfare report which determined that the move would not be in her best interests. The judge accepted that forcing the mother to stay in London would leave her deeply unhappy and would have a corresponding harmful impact on the child. Forcing the mother to stay would cause immeasurable damage to the parents’ relationship and would make the current arrangements less workable in the future. The court allowed the mother to relocate and emphasised that the relationship between the father and the daughter was sufficiently strong that it would continue even if the time spent together was reduced. The father’s appeal was dismissed.
If you are considering relocating or have been informed that the other parent intends to move away it is important to seek early legal advice. Barker Gotelee can offer a free and confidential initial consultation for anyone who needs help and advice.
Josephine Hayes is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.