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Separating parents and relocation

When parents separate their relocation either within the UK or abroad can present problems for the children’s primary carer and indeed the ‘absent’ parent.  The more so where the primary carer wishes to return with the children to their country of origin.  Strictly it is a criminal offence to remove a child from the UK without appropriate consent (usually the other parent’s if they have parental responsibility) or an order of the court.

Recently, a number of cases have looked again at the previous attitude adopted by the Court when considering an application to remove children permanently from the UK.  Until recently the Court allowed this where there was a strong reason for so doing and because of the impact a refusal would have on the primary carer.  However, this was only if a refusal would adversely affect the children’s best interests: the children’s best interests always remaining the paramount consideration in such cases.

The same principle applies when considering an application to relocate children within the UK.  In July 2010 a Judge sitting in the Middlesborough County Court refused an application by a mother for permission to remove her children from Cleveland to Stronsay in the Orkney Islands.  The father of the children (the former husband of the mother) resisted her application. The mother and her new husband already had employment in the Orkney’s and her husband had already moved there.  The children, whose ages ranged between 9 and 14, gave mixed views about the proposed move. In October 2010 the Court of Appeal supported the original decision.  It considered the move should not be allowed because of the upheaval and possible emotional strain, if not harm, such a move would produce.

It remains difficult to predict the likely outcome of an application to permanently remove from the United Kingdom or relocate within the United Kingdom to some distant locality where the proposed move appears to be genuine and there is no ulterior motive such as a desire to thwart contact between the children and the other parent.  In a case some years ago the latter was found to be the motivation of a mother who wished to remove from the south of England to Northern Ireland and with which she had no prior connection.

For advice on all aspects of children and family law matters, contact Philip Dimond or Melissa Markham on 01622 678341.