Can I move with my children? article banner image

Can I move from “Penzance to Newcastle?”

Whilst the towns or cities may change the question is a frequent one. The Court of Appeal has clarified the law when one parent wants to move with their child to another part of the United Kingdom, and the other parent objects.

The existing law had suggested that a “left-behind parent” might have to show ‘exceptional circumstances’ to prevent a move. In dismissing the father’s appeal, the Court of Appeal has confirmed that the only principle to be applied is that the child’s welfare is paramount.

Giving the lead judgment in a case called Re C, Lady Justice Black said:

“There is no doubt that it is the welfare principle in section 1(1) of the [Children Act 1989] which dictates the result in internal relocation cases, just as it is now acknowledged that it does in external relocation cases… I would not interpret the cases as imposing a supplementary requirement of exceptionality in internal relocation cases.”

Her Ladyship emphasised that the distance that a parent wishes to move will always be important, as will the practicalities of the child spending time with the left-behind parent:

“…At one end of the spectrum, it is not to be expected, for instance, that the court will be likely to impose restrictions on a parent who wishes to move to the next village, or even the next town or some distance across the county, and a parent seeking such a restriction may well get short shrift. At the other end of the spectrum, cases in which a parent wishes to relocate across the world, for example returning to their original home and to their family in Australia or New Zealand, are some of the hardest cases which the courts have to try and require great sensitivity and the utmost care…

“…One can see from the authorities, and indeed from this case, that the courts are much pre-occupied in relocation cases, whether internal or external, with the practicalities of the child spending time with the other parent or, putting it another way, with seeing if there is a way in which the move can be made to work, thus looking after the interests not only of the child but also of both of his or her parents. Only where it cannot, and the child’s welfare requires that the move is prevented, does that happen.”

As with many family law issues good preparation by the client and seeking early legal advice are important. Stephens Scown’s family law team has been ranked as the best in Devon and Cornwall by the two leading independent legal guides, Chambers and The Legal 500. Contact us to see how our expertise can help.