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Moving Abroad with Child After Divorce

Feb 14, 2017   ·   5 minute read

As a specialist children solicitor, with many years of experience in helping parents applying to move abroad with their children or advising parents who oppose such applications, I have seen an increase in enquiries from parents about moving out of the UK with their children. The enquiries are not just from parents currently based in Cheshire and the North West of England, but from across the country.

The increase in enquiries is down to the following trends:

  • the world becoming a smaller place with so many people meeting and marrying partners from other countries;
  • the number of overseas families who settled in the UK but one parent now wants to return to their country of origin;
  • emigrating with work as opportunities for working abroad increase;
  • the fears of some parents about the impact of Brexit on their ability to move to an EU country.

It is said that being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world. That is particularly true for any parent who is involved in ‘international parenting’ as a result of one parent moving abroad with the child. Most parents find it hard enough to let their child go off for the weekend with their ex-partner, let alone accept that their child should get on a plane to another country to see their mum or dad.

I have found, over the years that many parents don’t fully appreciate that if they are successful in relocating abroad with their child that the court will often order that the child should spend longer chunks of time during holidays with the parent who is not moving abroad and who will be missing their weekend contact.

It is often said that there are ‘’no winners, only losers’’ when one parent wants to move to another country with their child, whether that be back to a parent’s country of origin or as a result of a new job or relationship. However with communication and imagination arrangements, even airport handovers, can work. If it is a relocation to Spain then the flight from Manchester or Liverpool airport and handover may be a lot easier than navigating a motorway trip from Cheshire to Cornwall or Guildford.

Some parents are well researched on the law but for others it is a whole new arena. The basic principle is that is that if a child is habitually resident in the UK he or she can’t move abroad with either parent unless the other parent agrees to the move or the court approves the move abroad by making an order granting permission to relocate. That rule can be hard for a parent to get to grips with as if, for example, both parents originate from the USA but live in the UK with their children this may mean that the children are habitually resident in the UK. So on divorce if one parent wants to return ‘home’ to the USA with the children, although all the family members are USA citizens’ permission still has to be obtained from an English court.  Without specialist legal advice many parents don’t realise the implications of booking the flight ‘home’. The legal and personal costs of not knowing the law on international parenting can have a devastating impact on a parent and their chances of successfully getting a court order to let them take their child abroad.

As part of one parent agreeing to give permission or the court making an order allowing the other parent to relocate the arrangements for contact should be recorded. If a court order to relocate is made the court will normally also make a child arrangements order setting out how often the child should see the parent, and that can include written contact, Skype, and face to face contact. The specific details such as

  • the agreed travel arrangements
  • who , if anyone, will accompany the child
  • who should pay for the costs of flights

should all be agreed and recorded.

Extended family and grandparent’s ability to travel, time differences with Skype, the child’s ‘best friend’, key dates such as Thanksgiving and grandad’s 80th birthday all should not be forgotten. ‘Small’ details such as these can really impact on whether arrangements work for a child. Compromise is also a key factor as if grandparents can’t make a long haul flight to Oz for Christmas could both parents split the travel and meet in Dubai? It is often those small points that make all the difference to whether international parenting will work for a family or not.

It is always tough to answer a query on whether a mum or dad will get permission to move abroad. That is not just because the law on this subject is so complex but also down to international parenting being one of the hardest things for any parent to contemplate, and therefore for their solicitor, to guide a parent through. Invariably a parent is already emotionally, if not financially, committed to their move abroad before they take the step of getting advice and so, in my view, it is always worth getting an assessment of your family situation and your options.

If you would like to ask any questions about your family situation, contact me HERE.