The law allows parents with a Child Arrangements (live with) Order to take children abroad for up to 28 days at a time without requiring consent from others with Parental Responsibility. Permission may however be required where one parent seeks to relocate with the child and this move will disrupt the relationship and/or time that the child spends with the other parent. Internal relocation relates to moving within the country.
An application to the Court is required if the practical arrangements of a Child Arrangements Order (to spend time with) cannot be maintained due to the relocation. The application would be to vary (change) the existing order on in some instances to apply for a Specific Issue Order for permission to relocate. The other parent could apply for a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent the relocation.
The need for relocation can arise in many circumstances for example, a new job, new employment, new relationship, better living standards or a new relationship.
The child’s welfare remains the paramount concern of the court. In Re C [internal relocation] , the Court of Appeal provided guidance on the principles to be applied in cases involving internal relocation.
The principles set out by Blake LJ are summarised as follows:
- There is no meaningful difference between internal and external relocation and ultimately both depend on the best interests of the child or children.
- The wishes, feelings and interests of both parents are important, but the welfare of the child or children will remain central to the case.
- The court is likely to still find the Payne v Payne considerations helpful as a checklist to help balance what is within the child’s best interests.
Payne v Payne guidelines are summarised as follows:
- The welfare of the child is always paramount.
- There is no presumption in favour of the applicant parents.
- The reasonable proposals of the parent with a live with order wishing to live abroad carry great weight.
- Consequently, the proposals have to be scrutinised with care and the court need to be satisfied that there is a genuine motivation for the move and not the intention to bring contact between the child and the other parent to an end.
- The effect upon the applicant parent and the new family of the child of a refusal of leave is very important.
- The effect upon the child of the denial of contact with the other parent and in some cases his family is very important.
- The opportunity for continuing contact between the child and the parent left behind may be very significant.
Usually, an application to relocate by the parent with whom the child lives is unlikely to be refused unless there are compelling reasons to do so such as strong welfare grounds or unreasonable, unrealistic or ill thought out plans. It is possible for the other parent to argue that a move is a means of frustrating the relationship between the child and themselves and therefore not in that child’s best interests.
It is important that any application is accompanied by a detailed statement setting out the plans and reasons for the relocation including details of how the child’s relationship with the other parent and family members can be maintained.
Every case is of course dependent on its own facts. If you are considering relocating with your child or find yourself opposed to the other parent’s move, it is best to obtain legal advice in relation to your position.