The simple answer is no, permission is not required from another parent to move within England and Wales (the jurisdiction of the court). There is no specific legal or statutory provision which requires such permission to be sought and/or secured.

However, courts over the last number of years have become much more cognisant of the fact that it can on occasions be more difficult say for a parent to maintain contact with a child who has moved from Cornwall to Newcastle than would be the case if a child were to move from Dover to Calais.

Move your child within England and Wales

It is certainly therefore sensible that if a substantive move within England and Wales is anticipated that consent from the other parent should be sought and if not provided for an application to be made for permission for the child to be moved.

There are certain circumstances where it is highly unlikely that a court would have significant input about a  move if that move were for reasonable cause and the move would not impact upon the child’s education and/or contact with the other parent (if in rented accommodation a landlord required the property returned). So if the child would attend the same school and there would be no impact on the child’s contact with the other parent formal consent will not be required.

If however the move is likely to impact upon the child’s education requiring a change of school and significantly impacts the other parent’s contact there are certainly a number of occasions that where a parent has moved a significant distance with the child an urgent application brought to the court by the other parent has required the return of the child to the location from which they have been removed (until the case is resolved) and indeed if the moving parent is unable to return has seen the child placed temporarily at least in the care of the other parent whilst the issues are determined.

Can I move two hours away with my child?

The answer in relation to the above is of course yes if the consent of both parents has been secured. Additionally the answer would be yes if the move did not require a substantive change in the child’s education (e.g. they are going to a boarding school elsewhere) and did not have a significant impact upon the other parent’s contact (i.e. contacts took place during all school holidays rather than incorporating weekends).

In the event however the move would mean that there would have to be a change of education and or substantial variation to the other parents contact then the reality is that the issues which are identified in the paragraph above are engaged and the consent of the other parent would be required.

When considering whether a move of a distance even up to an hour or more as stated consideration would have to be given to the contact arrangements. For example, if the non resident parent had alternate weekend contact and would normally collect the child from school or the home of the other parent which would be no more than say for example, 15 or 20 minute drive once that is extended out to an hour or more that would be considered a significant change to that parents’ contact and arrangements would need to be agreed as to how that might work. It might include for example an agreement that both parents will engage in the travel and meet half way for handovers at weekends.

Once however you also start hitting the two hour mark or potentially more then consideration would also have to be given whether maintaining existent levels of contact are suitable for the child. For example if a child was staying with one parent every other weekend from Friday to Sunday at what point does the travel which the child would have to undertake both ways become prohibitive to that contact and inappropriate for the child to have to go through. I.e. for a weekend contact it is probably unlikely to be in the child’s best interest to have to spend five to six hours travelling one way and then back the other.

How far can a parent move with joint custody UK?

In response to this question firstly to confirm “custody” no longer exists within the United Kingdom and you will be looking at child arrangements order which identify with which parent a child lives which can include joint live with orders which defines the time that the child will live with each of the respective parents. The response to the above is in effect substantially the same as provided earlier within this article.

The issue is not whether the child lives with and has contact with the other parent or the child is defined as living with both parents but with what the impact of the move would be on the continuation of that arrangement.

In fact it may be harder for a parent with a shared care arrangement to justify a significant move where it effectively becomes impossible for that shared care arrangement to be maintained. For example, if the shared care arrangement identified that the time spent with each parent will encompass parts of the school week with each parent delivering and collecting from the school a significant move which would no longer make that possible i.e. as a result of the move one of the parents would have to travel two to three hours a day simply to deliver and collect the child from school in effect the shared care arrangement is no longer possible. In those circumstances the court would then have to give consideration to variation of the arrangement creating in effect a primary carer and the other parent having contact.

Consequently again the primary driving factor will be the distance that is moved, the time for transfer between the parents, and whether this fundamentally impacts the arrangements which then would need to be varied and amended either by agreement or if necessary through court action.

How do the courts view long distance moves?

Courts have increasingly and regularly applied the same regulations and considerations for significant internal relocation cases as that which are applied for applications to remove the child permanently from the United Kingdom.

As mentioned in my previous article on relocating abroad the courts will likely give consideration as to whether the move is justified and provides benefits not only to the moving parent but also the child or whether the move has been primarily determined as a means or desire to limit and/or restrict the remaining parent’s contact.

As per therefore Moves Abroad, careful consideration should be given to this issue at an early stage and the consent of the other parent sought (and preferably confirmed in writing) otherwise an application to the court to secure permission is strongly advised.

In putting together such an application the same issues as are set out in Moves Abroad in the previous Article can and should be addressed inclusive of:

  1. The reason for the move and the benefits to be brought with it;
  2. The availability and suitability of accommodation to which the move would be undertaken;
  3. The availability and suitability of the change of education regarding schools;
  4. Consideration for registration of medical and dental treatment in the near future; and
  5. The proposals for maintenance for the continuation of contact with the remaining parent particularly through school holidays and via Skype video calls, contacts, etc.

Again, as per Moves Abroad the court has no authority to prevent an adult from moving within the United Kingdom, It is only the arrangements for the child which the court has authority to regulate. Consequently as per disputed Moves Abroad a disputed move within the jurisdiction, parents who are looking to move may be left in a situation where they obviously can move themselves but effectively would have to transfer the primary care of the child to the other parent to enable the child to remain in their current location.

It can be particularly difficult for parents who object to their child being moved away but for accommodation and/or employment reasons in effect cannot offer to undertake and provide the primary care of the child. In those circumstances the court’s permission to move may be inevitable and the issue of contact become the primary area of dispute that need resolution within the court process.

If you have asked the questions on internal relocation and would now like more information on the different types of proceedings relating to children, please get in touch and we’d be happy to assist you.

The next article in the series of Private Family Court Proceedings and Misconceptions will Address: Who can I bring my child into contact with.

This article is part of a series on Private Family Law and Children Law proceedings. If you would like to learn more about the rules around parental responsibility, contact, holidays and arrangements for separated parents, please click here for the full series.

If you would like to discuss the different types of legal proceedings relating to children, please get in touch with our Children team and we’d be happy to assist you.