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Legal Advice for Relocating with a Child

 

The position of a child in the breakdown of a relationship can be an emotional and contentious issue. At all times, it is important to consider their welfare. Where the child lives, and how much time they spend which each parent, are questions which can be difficult to answer. Having an experienced, practical, and emotionally intelligent family law expert on your side throughout the process is vital to ensure the decisions you make are the best ones.

An issue of conflict we often see arise is where one parent wishes to move away from their local area and relocate with the children.

My child lives with me – do I get to decide where we live?

Not unilaterally. Many people assume, if their child lives with them for the majority of their time, they should be entitled to choose where they live, including relocating within or outside the UK. This is not the case. The law relating to child relocation is based on the best interests of the child and assumes, in the absence of contrary evidence, it is in the best interests of the child to have regular contact with both parents.

As such, if you want to move overseas with your child, in most cases you will need the permission of your former partner before you relocate. Depending on the circumstances, you might also need their consent to move within the UK.

If you are considering making a move with your child, or believe that your former partner is thinking about relocating you should contact us immediately to discuss your options.

Do we have to go to court for me to relocate my child?

No, you don’t even need a formal agreement if both parents agree to the relocation. However, it is always advisable to record your agreement in writing in case circumstances change in the future. For this reason, some people choose to have their agreement formally approved by a court to make it legally binding.

If it is impossible to come to an amicable agreement with your former partner, there are alternatives to going to court. Often, people can reach an agreement with the help of a mediator. We are experts in organising and supporting our clients through mediation processes. An impartial third party can be invaluable in these negotiations.

Not only can attempting to reach an agreement yourselves, either together or through mediation, save you time and money, the court may expect you to have gone through this process before starting formal legal proceedings.

If you cannot come to an agreement about the living arrangements for your child, we will lead the way through the court process. The court has the power to decide whether a child can be relocated (whether within the UK or overseas) and how frequently the child should have contact with the other parent.

The wellbeing of the child is the main priority of the court, which will usually presume it is better for the child to have regular contact with both parents, as well as members of the child’s wider family.

The court must consider the following:

  • The age, sex, and background of the child
  • The needs of the child (in particular their physical, emotional, and educational needs)
  • Whether each parent can meet those needs
  • Whether changing the child’s arrangement will affect the child
  • Any risk of harm to the child
  • The wishes and emotions of the child

The wishes and emotions of the child, while important, may not be the deciding factor in the court’s judgment.

My former partner has relocated with my child overseas – what can I do?

Relocating overseas with a child without the consent of the other parent, or the permission of the court, can be considered child abduction. If your former partner has taken your child overseas without your consent, is refusing to return from an overseas trip, or you are worried that they might, contact us immediately.

I’m worried about the impact of relocation on my child – can you help?

We can advise on the potential impact of these proceedings on your child. Our friendly and compassionate team can connect you to specialist services such as counsellors, therapists and the National Youth Advocacy Service. We also have a great deal of experience working with the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS).

CAFCASS assists the court and can investigate the child’s circumstances ahead of court proceedings. This can involve speaking to the child, outside the stressful court environment, to determine their wishes, as well as contacting other significant people in the child’s life.

At all times, the main concern of the court will be the welfare of the child. We will support you in ensuring that your child gets the support they need.

Will relocating affect my existing child maintenance agreement?

It may well do.

Getting clear and practical legal advice as early as possible is vital in cases like this, even if you do not plan to contest the relocation itself. It is important to fully understand the consequences of the move. Our expert team will quickly determine your most appropriate course of action.

Does it make a difference if my former partner and I were never married?

No. Your rights as a parent are the same in most cases, as if you were married.

Does it make a difference if we were a same sex couple?

The law is more complex in relation to same sex couples. Arrangements for children can depend on how the child was conceived or joined the family.

How can Lanyon Bowdler help in child relocation cases?

As one of the leading family law teams in the Midlands, recognised by our clients and in the top legal directories for our expertise and sensitivity in the most complex and emotionally charged situations, we have decades of experience providing the clear advice to parents. The 2022 edition of The Legal 500 directory specifically comments on our experience with “internal and external relocation cases”. The 2022 edition of Chambers UK rates us in Band 1, partly due to our ability to advise on “complex Children Act matters”.

Our approach is always to take the time to listen to you and understand all the issues which exist in your situation. We are proud of our reputation for an emotionally sensitive and intelligent service; we understand how difficult decision-making can be when it comes to issues involving children and will help you determine the right choices. Questions of finances, living arrangements, and along with ongoing contact with both parents, will all need to be carefully considered – we will help you find workable solutions.

We have a genuine commitment to understanding our clients, whatever their backgrounds, something which is exemplified by our membership appointment to of the NFU legal panel and our signature of the Armed Forces Covenant. We are passionate about what we do, and dedicated to our clients, no matter their circumstances, and recognise that, when children are involved, you need compassion and understanding, as well as legal expertise.

If you are concerned about the status of your parental rights contact one of a Family Law Solicitors for advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

Contact us today if you are considering relocating with your child, whether internationally or within the UK, or if you believe that your former partner may be planning to do so.

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I was impressed with the efficiency and welcome of staff. Excellent office layout and service.  

- Mrs S James & Mr W Parkinson, Telford

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- Mr M Court & Mrs A May, Shrewsbury

Always very efficient in dealing with the workload and advice given in divorce. Would highly recommend the service I received. 

- Mrs Suzanne Purvin

Knowledge and information given was accurate and realistic.

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Friendly atmosphere and very professional attitude. 

- Mr Sidney Jolliffe, Oswestry

Advice was sensible and informative. It allowed me to make the decisions with understanding potential concequences. 

- Mr Paul Simon Burgoyne, Hereford

They listened to my worries and my concerns, which put me at ease and made me feel that I completely had someone in my corner fighting for myself and children's best interests. 

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