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The courts are facing a rising number of applications from parents seeking to relocate to another country with their child or children. This is a highly intricate area of law, and seeking early advice from an experienced family lawyer can be instrumental.

Can I relocate abroad with my child?

In legal terms, this is referred to as removing the child from the jurisdiction. To accomplish this, you will require the written agreement of the other parent (and any other individuals with parental responsibility for the child). If they do not provide their agreement, you can apply to the court for permission to remove the child from the jurisdiction, which is known as leave to remove.

The Court will assess what is in the best interests of the child and will want assurance that due consideration has been given to how the child will maintain contact and a relationship with the other parent.

What does a Leave to Remove application entail?

A leave-to-remove application is a request to the court to relocate a child to live outside the jurisdiction of England and Wales. Such an application arises when parents (or those with parental responsibility for a child) cannot agree on the decision to relocate the child abroad.

Parents will be encouraged to try to reach an agreement, potentially through mediation. If reaching an agreement is not feasible, the case will need to be adjudicated by a judge.

Whether you are seeking to persuade the other parent or the courts, you should consider and plan for the following:

  • How contact with the other parent will be maintained, including arrangements for your child to visit and spend time with the other parent.
  • Your intended place of residence, the school your child will attend, and the healthcare available in the new country.
  • Your financial arrangements for caring for yourself and your child, including details of any employment you have secured.
  • Your motivation for the move; the courts will scrutinise this closely and aim to prevent situations where the move is primarily intended to sever communication with the other parent.

What if I take my child out of the country without permission?

A parent with a live residence (live with) child arrangements order can typically take their child abroad for up to 28 days without requiring written permission, unless a court order specifies otherwise.

However, if a child is taken out of the UK for longer than 28 days without the agreement of the other parent or the court’s permission via a court order, it constitutes a violation of the Child Abduction Act 1984, which is a criminal offence. In such cases, steps can be taken to secure the return of the child to the UK.

Challenge a Leave to Remove application

If you believe that relocating your child to live abroad is not in their best interests, you can challenge a Leave to Remove application. Additionally, you may make an application for a Prohibited Steps Order.

To challenge the application, you will need to demonstrate how the move would adversely affect your child’s welfare, impact your relationship with them, or why the move is impractical due to financial or educational reasons, for example.

If you are concerned that your child is about to be removed from the UK imminently without your permission or the permission of the court, it’s important to seek advice immediately.

From the start to finish we were made to feel welcome every time and we had an appointment with Danielle Shawcross and her team. Whatever points we didn't understand the team did their utmost efforts to help us.
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