International Relocation (Leave to Remove)

A child cannot be taken abroad – whether for a day-trip to France, a three-week summer holiday or a permanent move overseas – without the permission of all those who have parental responsibility for that child. Often, consent will be forthcoming and arrangements can be made by agreement. It is then sensible to draw up a formal agreement which can be made into a Court Order; this can address any problems that may arise in future. We can assist you with drawing up an agreement and making an application by consent to the Court.

Relocation order applications

In the absence of such consent, an application to the Court will need to be made for permission to relocate your child overseas. This is often referred to as Leave to Remove. If a child is taken out of the England and Wales without the consent of the other parent or permission of the court, the parent who removes the child will be deemed to have abducted that child, and court proceedings (to include criminal proceedings) may be brought in England, and in the other country, to secure the child’s immediate return. 

Why international relocation occurs

We are regularly consulted by parents where one or other of them wants to take the child to live abroad (outside of England & Wales). This may be at the time of separation. For instance, one parent may feel that he/she only moved to England to be with their spouse/partner and, now that the relationship is over, he/she may want to return home with the child, to be close to their own relatives and support network. At other times, it may be some time after the separation or divorce. Perhaps he/she has been offered a fantastic job opportunity abroad, or has met a new partner from abroad and wants to start to make a new life with the child overseas. Whatever reason there may be in favour of the relocation, the move will often be heavily contested by the parent who will be left behind.  

The Court’s paramount consideration will be the child’s welfare and it will carefully evaluate each parent’s proposed plans. The Court will only grant permission to relocate if it considers that, in all the circumstances, such a move is in the best interests of the child. 

Factors considered by courts in relocation cases

If you are the parent seeking to relocate with the child, your prospects of success will be greatly improved if you are able to show to the court that you have given the relocation very careful thought and preparation. Can you show the court that the move would be in the child’s best interests? Have you made practical enquiries such as, where you and the child will live? What arrangements have you made for the child’s schooling? How will you support yourself, and the child, financially? What arrangements do you propose for contact with the parent left behind? How will the costs of these arrangements be met?

The left-behind parent

If you are the parent who will be left behind, you may have good reasons for opposing the proposed move. Your most immediate fear may very well be, how often will I be able to have contact with my child? Whilst in this era of social-networking and digital media, there are several creative ways of being able to stay in contact – for example, via Zoom or FaceTime – this is no substitute for regular, face-to-face contact between a parent and child. The Court recognises the importance of a child having a full and meaningful relationship with both its parents. If you want to oppose such a move, a carefully prepared case showing why it would be inappropriate for the court to consent to the move, can often prove persuasive. 

The importance of legal help

Applications for leave to remove are often very difficult and highly emotive, as there is usually very little scope for compromise. In all cases, whether you are wishing to relocate with your child abroad or whether you wish to oppose such a move, it is crucial that you seek specialist legal advice at an early stage. 

Getting the strategy right at the outset will maximise your chances of achieving a successful outcome. Here at Bross Bennett, we have a highly experienced team with a strong track record of successfully securing and opposing proposed moves overseas. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your particular circumstances further.