Relocating with your children?  Our top ranked family law team answer some of the questions they are most frequently asked. 

Following the breakdown of a marriage or relationship, it is not unusual for one of the parties to want to move away from the area where the couple have been living together in order to start a new life somewhere else. This is particularly true where children are involved – often one party will want to move closer to their parents, for example, to help with childcare. There are a whole host of issues to consider before you move and the advice regarding the permissibility of any move will depend on factors such as which parent the child lives with. It is important that any issues are dealt with before moving, rather than retrospectively.

How far away can I move with my child?

There is no fixed rule about how far you can move with your child, without the express permission of the Court. The Court will be unlikely to impose restrictions on a parent unnecessarily – for example, if your intention is to move locally (to the next village or town), and relocating will only have a minimal impact on your child’s relationship with your ex-partner, then you are unlikely to need to apply to the Court. If you intend to move beyond the locality, it is usually advisable to follow the legal process, and if you are moving abroad, it is almost always essential to seek the permission of the Court. Either way, it is best to obtain legal advice about your move, as the advice you receive, and the permissibility of your move, will often be dependent upon the facts of your case.

What should I do before moving away with my child?

It is usually best for parents to try to agree matters between themselves if possible. If your ex-partner objects to your relocation, it is important to get legal advice as soon as possible about your options – particularly if there are deadlines for you to move, for example to start a new job, or move a child in time for the start of a new school term. If you do not follow the proper legal process, which will very often require an application to the Court, you could end up being accused of child abduction.

Does it matter why I am relocating with my child?

In short, yes. In considering your application, the Court will want to know why you are choosing to move, whether this is to move closer to family, for work reasons, or to enjoy a different way of life. The Court will want to see a genuine reason for relocating, rather than simply a means of obstructing contact between your child and your ex-partner – and equally, if your ex-partner defends any application by you, the Court will want to understand their motivation for doing so.

Can my ex-partner stop me from moving away with my child?

Potentially. Your ex-partner is likely to be advised to make a prohibited steps application or an application for the child to live with them instead. The Court’s primary concern is the welfare of the child, and the Court recognises that it is usually in a child’s best interest to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, where possible. The decision to allow a party to move away, either within the UK or abroad, is therefore taken very seriously and it cannot be assumed that the Court will automatically give you permission to move your child a significant distance from your ex-partner. This said, with the right legal advice, you can prepare a strong application for the Court’s consideration, and give you the greatest possible chance of your relocation being permitted by the Court.

Harriet Wigmore is a solicitor in the family team in Exeter. Our family law team has been ranked as the best in Devon and Cornwall by Chambers and The Legal 500, the two leading independent legal guides. If you would like to discuss inheritance on divorce or any other family law issue Harriet can be contacted on 01392 210700, by email