Moving Abroad with a Child After Divorce

Nov 07, 2022   ·   5 minute read
Diverse children enjoying playing with toys

Many parents who are thinking about a separation or divorce want to make a fresh start overseas with their child.

In this article, specialist family law solicitor Louise Halford shares her experience in helping parents apply to move abroad with their children and advising parents on how best to oppose child relocation applications.

For expert Divorce and Children Law advice call our team of specialist divorce lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.

Moving overseas with a child after separation or divorce

Evolve Family Law has seen an increase in inquiries from parents about moving out of the UK with their children. The inquiries are not just from parents currently based in Cheshire and the North West of England, but from across the UK.

The increase in children law inquiries is down to the following trends:

  • The world becoming a smaller place with people meeting and marrying partners from other countries
  • The number of overseas families who came to the UK on work visas and dependant visas and who settle in the UK by securing indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship but, after a separation or divorce, one parent wants to return to their country of origin
  • Emigrating for work as opportunities for working abroad increase

International parenting after separation or divorce

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.

Prior to committing emotionally or financially to an overseas move, many parents don’t fully appreciate that if they are successful in relocating abroad with their child that the family court will often order that the child should spend long 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 moves 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 imaginative contact arrangements, even airport handovers, can work. If it is a relocation to Spain then the flight from Manchester or Liverpool airport and the child’s handover may be a lot easier than navigating a motorway trip from Cheshire to Cornwall or Guildford.

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The law on international child relocation

Some parents are well-researched on the law on child relocation but for others, it is a whole new arena. The basic principle is that if a child is habitually resident in the UK the child can’t move abroad with either parent unless the other parent agrees to the move or the family court makes an order granting permission to relocate.

The law on child relocation and moving abroad with your child can be hard for a parent to get to grips with. If, for example, both parents originate from the US but currently live in the UK with their children this may mean that their children are classed as habitually resident in the UK. Therefore, although all the family members are American citizens, if one parent wants to return ‘home’ to the US with the children, permission still has to be obtained from an English court.  Without specialist legal advice on child relocation law, many parents don’t realise the implications of booking their 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 or a child arrangement order.

Contact arrangements if a child moves overseas

As part of one parent agreeing to give permission, or the court making an order allowing the other parent to relocate, the contact arrangements 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 other parent. The court order can include written contact, Skype, and face-to-face contact. An agreement should be reached and recorded on specific details such as

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

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

Legal advice on child relocation overseas

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 family law 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 it is always worth getting an assessment of your family situation and your options before you commit to a move.

For expert Divorce and Children Law advice call our team of specialist divorce lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.