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Relocation of the family: what needs to be considered?

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By Caroline Keeley

Following a divorce or separation between parents, the location of the children’s home base may be a point of contention, especially if it results in the children being moved further away from one parent, whether in the UK or abroad.

If you have parental responsibility over the children, you will have equal rights of decision-making as to their future alongside your ex-partner, including health, schooling and religion. Decisions should be discussed and mutually agreed in order to maintain an amicable relationship and to encourage and promote co-parenting going forwards. However, in the event of one parent wanting to relocate with the children, the courts may need to get involved if the parties cannot agree.

In these circumstances either parent could apply to the court. The parent wanting to relocate with the children can apply for a Specific Issue Order (SIO) to decide where the children should live, or the parent objecting to the move can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) to prevent the other parent from moving with the children.

The primary concern for the court, when making decisions in respect of where the children will live, will be the children’s welfare and best interests.

The court will consider, amongst others, the following factors in reaching a decision:

  • The children’s wishes and feelings considered in light of their age and understanding

  • The age, sex and background of your children, including their religion;

  • How socially connected they are to their current location;

  • The physical, emotional and educational needs of your children;

  • The impact any potential change will have on your children, including their relationship with the other parent, changing schools etc. and what the effect would be if the change is denied.

For any parent needing to consider a move, they should research the potential relocation, including looking at new schools, potential accommodation, financial considerations, the support network for the parent in the new location etc. These are all matters which the court will take into consideration in deciding what is best for the children.

If a parent has taken or intends to take the children outside of the UK without the consent of the other parent, then this is a very different issue and urgent advice should be obtained.

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Ultimately, whether the children should relocate with one parent is one of the most contentious issues that can end up in court following the parents’ separation. It is a difficult and binary decision. The parents should consider all alternatives to court prior to any application being made, such as attending mediation.

For further information on the issues raised here, please email and she will be pleased to assist.