In his latest article, Bill Wilkins talks about the option of moving away with your children when you are separated from your partner.
With a more mobile population it is well known that increasing numbers of separated parents are wanting to move away with their child from the area that they previously lived in with the other parent. There are of course many reasons for doing this – a new partner a new job or simply a wish to return to an area where family and/or friends are.
There has been considerable focus by the courts on applications by a parent when they want to move abroad with their child – but what about a situation where a parent wants to move to another part of this country with their child.
The considerations for deciding an internal relocation application are not the same as those for moving abroad, although the court’s decision must be based on the test of assessing that the child’s welfare is paramount.
Often it is suggested that restricting the ability of a parent to be able to move to another part of the country would be an unreasonable restriction on freedom. If the child lives with the parent who seeks to move then it has been argued that the move should be allowed unless it can be shown that the move would be harmful to the welfare of the child.
An important factor the court would want to take account of is the parent’s motivation for moving. If the court felt that the motivation for moving was to undermine the other parent’s relationship with their child and (if there was one) to undermine a shared living arrangement then the court may be more likely to refuse the application. However in cases where there are shared living arrangements if the reasons for one parent’s relocation to another part of the country are accepted by the court then the fact that there had been arrangements amounting to a shared care arrangement may not necessarily prevent the move.
The reality of the court’s approach is that it is not possible to apply the same principles that would be applied to a proposed move abroad and that each application for an internal relocation is considered by the court on the basis of its own individual merits when the court assesses the welfare of the child.
The approach of the court therefore to each case means that it is essential that any application is properly and thoroughly thought out and presented. I would always advise that as much information as possible is included in the application so as to demonstrate that plans have been fully thought out. Those plans should include obviously the reasons and rationale for any move but also go on to address the practicalities of any move including proposals for how the child’s relationship with the parent left behind would be maintained. Ideally this information should be collated and shared with the other parent before any application is started (if it was not possible to avoid there being proceedings) so as to be able to demonstrate to the court the attempts that have been made to both avoid the necessity for court proceedings and to supply as much information to the other parent as possible.
From my experience the court will want to examine very carefully the nature of any plans put forward to move away and very often will look to balance the competing arguments for and against a move before concluding which way forward is in the best interests of the child concerned. Whilst the basic principle is that a parent can live where they like in this country with the children that live with them, it is very important that any plans to move are presented properly to the court.
Bill Wilkins is a partner in the Stephens Scown family team. He specialises in all aspects of family and child care law and is a member of the Law Society’s Child Care Panel. Bill can be contacted on 01932 210700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.