What happens when a divorcee with children wants to relocate? Mark Smith, a leading family lawyer who specialises in cases involving children, explains the issues.
It is not uncommon to want to relocate after a divorce, but when children are involved, a court will have to consider your application based on what is in their best interests.
Relocating to Newcastle or New Zealand makes no difference, as seeking to relocate with children in the UK is dealt with in the same way as if you wanted to move abroad.
You may be planning to relocate, or hoping to prevent your spouse doing so. I have helped hundreds of people in both situations and my advice is always that it is crucial to plan early. If a Court application is needed, it is important to make an application in good time due to pressure on the family justice system.
Planning to relocate
If you would like to relocate with your children, the kind of matters you should be looking into include schooling, healthcare provision and crucially how you will ensure that your children maintain their relationship with their other parent. A useful starting point can be to put yourself in the other parent’s shoes and think what would help to make the change more acceptable to them.
You will need to think about the practicalities of how you make contact work. Depending on the distances involved weekend visits may not be possible, so you may need to consider suggesting the other parent has more time with the children during half terms and holidays.
It is also worth thinking creatively. There are several new technology solutions and Apps that can help divorced and separated families manage logistics. Some of the best Apps include shared calendars, calculators to keep track of expenses and even journals so that information can be shared easily.
Technology can also help keep children connected to parents who are far away, allowing them to read them a bedtime story for example.
Seeking to prevent a relocation
If you want to prevent your children moving with their other parent, then again it is important to seek early advice as you may need to make an urgent application to the court. You will also need to consider if, as an alternative, you wish to put yourself forward to care for the children full time and the practicalities that flow from that.
In addition, it will be helpful to think through the same kind of issues as discussed above. Namely: schooling, healthcare and how to maintain the children’s relationship with the parent who is moving.
My approach is always to find ways to reduce conflict and, where possible, find a solution. In my experience thinking things through carefully and being clear about your plan removes many unknowns, which are often a source of conflict.
Mark Smith is a partner in the family team at Stephens Scown specialising in matters that relate to children. Recognised as leader in his field by Chambers UK, Mark is regularly appointed by CAFCASS to represent children in complex care proceedings and in difficult disputes between parents, often with an international element. To contact Mark, please call 01392 210700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org