More than twelve months spent in and out of lockdown has prompted many people to re-evaluate their lives. Work/life balance, jobs, relationships, location – nothing has escaped scrutiny.
Working from home, home schooling, and concerns about job security have thrown many family routines into unfamiliar territory. Sian Kenkre, a Senior Associate in the Family team at the Wilkes Partnership has noticed that one thing is very clear about relocating: it’s a family matter.
Sian says “Lockdown has been a unique experience for all of us but it has bought some issues into very clear focus for some families”. She continues “Societal changes are clearly reflected in the issues I see as a family lawyer. In the last six months I have seen a significant rise in enquiries from separated parents who want to relocate with their children”.
A desire to relocate isn’t always restricted by borders. Moving to a rural or coastal area might be the dream for some while others want, or need, to move overseas. Often, the breakdown of a relationship can result in a yearning for one parent to return to their home country.
Relocation cases are an anomaly in family law: there is no middle ground. Children will either relocate or they won’t. Such cases are difficult and highly emotive for clients.
A parent who is seeking to relocate overseas permanently with their child needs either:
- Written consent of the other parent
- Permission of the Court
The fact that moving without the other parent’s consent is a criminal offence must never be overlooked.
These sort of applications are very finely balanced. Sian suggests “It is essential to take early advice from a family law specialist and planning of any move should be meticulous. It is essential to demonstrate that any move has been fully and properly considered and that it is in the best interests of the child”.
An experienced family lawyer will have a clear understanding of how the Court will consider a case. They will look at its merits and give the client honest advice, including the kind of information that builds a successful case.
Of course when one parent wants to relocate it doesn’t always follow that the other parent agrees. One of Sian’s recent cases saw her successfully representing a client who opposed plans to relocate his children overseas. “Cases like this take exhaustive preparation and often many months of court proceedings.’’
Appropriate safeguards have to be put in place to ensure contact arrangements can continue. This can be the root of some practical difficulties so taking advice from a specialist lawyer in the destination country is essential. “Mirror orders” in the other country are likely to be a feature in many cases.
Sian’s final words of advice are “Any application to relocate, whether it’s within the UK or overseas, must be well thought out and clearly communicated to the other parent. Whilst emotions are running high it may seem that it will be impossible to reach an agreement but, in many cases, parents do work together positively in either mediation or the collaborative law process to agree very detailed plans. Failing to consult with the other parent may lead to them making an application to the Court for a Prohibited Steps Order and this puts the matter in the hands of the Court”.
If you, or the co-parent of a child, are considering relocation, Sian Kenkre can guide you through the legal process. Whether you are the parent who wants to relocate with a child, or the parent who is opposed to it, contact Sian at [email protected].
Ruth Harris-Byrne, one of Sian’s colleagues at the Wilkes Partnership, is the head of our dedicated Childcare team. Ruth’s team specialise in cases where the welfare of a child takes centre stage. Take a look at their recent article Care proceedings: it is essential to listen to the voice of the child.