Relocating your children after a relationship breakdown
“I just want to go home with the kids”
After a relationship breakdown, for foreign nationals with children settled in England, there may be a natural desire to return to the support of their family in their country of origin. However, it is not as simple as that if the other parent doesn’t agree.
Where both parents are registered as the parents of a child, they share parental responsibility (“PR”). PR is not dependent on whether the parents are married, cohabiting or separated.
Can I just leave?
For a child to be able to permanently leave England where they have been habitually resident for another, there needs to be the consent of all of those with PR, otherwise, a court order would need to be obtained.
Relationships break down for many reasons but very often the parent with primary care of the children will feel a sense of isolation if their own family is abroad.
A parent seeking to relocate, without the consent of the other parent, must seek the permission of the court.
The ultimate test is: what is in the best interests of the child or children?
The stark reality is that the court is being asked to balance a fundamental change to the relationship between the proposed left behind parent and the child against the prospective future of the other parent if permission is not granted.
How much planning do I need to show?
In the absence of a clear, well-considered, plan by the parent seeking relocation, particularly in respect of how the child’s relationship with the left behind parent can be maintained, any application is likely to fail.
In recent years, the relationship of the child with the left behind parent has been given more careful consideration and consequently more effort is required on the part of the parent seeking to persuade a court.
There are fundamentals without which any application would fail:
- What is the motivation for the move?
- Where are you going to live?
- How are you going to afford to live there? Will you get a job? What is the benefit situation if you do not, or lose it very quickly?
- If you are going to work, what are the childcare arrangements?
- What are the educational opportunities for the child? Are they good enough?
- Do you have other financial resources available to you?
- What is the level of disruption to the child?
- What is the relationship with the left behind parent’s family?
- What contact does the child have historically and now?
- What are the proposals for ongoing contact in the event of a move?
- What are the wishes and feelings of the child?
This list is by no means exhaustive and you have to take into account the specific circumstances of the child. For example, are there other siblings?
No such application should be considered without first obtaining expert legal advice. Some time and thought at the beginning may produce dividends as far as the outcome of the application is concerned.