The Relocating with Children Checklist
Relocation of families has become something we see very often with our diverse and often multi citizenship clients. Every case is different and has unique considerations, from parents leaving an Orthodox religious community to parental alienation to false allegations. Without robust legal advice and assistance, relocation can become very messy, very quickly.
What You Should Do
Firstly, you have to ask permission of every person with parental responsibility (usually parents, but sometimes also Special Guardians, the Local Authority etc). If they consent to the relocation, get their agreement in writing, signed and dated.
Secondly, if they do not consent to the relocation, then you will need to make an application to court asking permission to relocate with your child. This is usually done under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 using the ‘Specific Issue Order’.
Court’s Paramount Consideration
Whenever a child is concerned, the court’s paramount consideration is the child’s best interests. The following checklist is not specific to relocation cases, but it is always used by courts:-
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child (weight of the child’s views will largely depend on the child’s age and understanding
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The likely effect on the child of any change in their circumstances
- The age, sex, background and any characteristics of the child which the court considers relevant
- Any harm which the child has suffered or are at risk of suffering
- How capable each of the parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers this to be relevant, is of meeting the child’s needs
- The range of powers available to the court – because the court has a very wide range of powers, it may be the case that they consider an alternative action to be more appropriate in the circumstances.
The Court’s Approach
In addition, the following checklist is specific to relocation cases, and the courts will treat it as guidance:-
- the reasonable proposals of the relocating parent
- whether the relocation proposal is genuinely motivated and advanced in good faith or driven by ulterior motive to prevent the child from having contact with the staying parent
- the impact on the relocating parent if the permission is refused
- the impact of the staying parent if the application is granted
- the impact on the child of having less contact with the staying parent and other staying family
- whether there is an opportunity for continuing contact between the child and the staying parent
Generally, there is no presumption in favour of either the relocating parent or the staying parent. Each case depends on the child’s best interests and on the evidence presented. The court usually takes a ‘360 degrees approach’ and looks at whether the child’s status quo should be changed.
The Court process takes approximately 6 months.
Checklist for the Applicant
In order to have a stronger application for relocation, the relocating parent has to prove to the court that changing the status quo is better for the child than no change, which is not always easy or straightforward. The following evidence will strengthen the relocation case:-
- Housing in the new location (housing brochure and map in relation to schools, GPs, public transport, airport)
- Existing ties, family, friends and network in the new location
- Quality and availability of healthcare for the child in the new location
- Quality and availability of education for the child in the new location and ease of entering a new education system (school reports and OFSTED reports)
- Any language issues and benefits
- Visas and immigration issues and benefits
- The political situation, stability and safety in the new location
- Prospects of employment of the relocating parent
- Financial considerations of relocation
- Transport links between the old and the new location (flights and/or trains schedules and costs)
- Any people affecting relocation application (such as new spouse) and their relationship with the child
- Suggestions of contact with the staying parent
- Legal enforcement framework (is the new location signatory to the Hague Convention 1996 or Brussels II Revised or a member of the EU)
Checklist for the Respondent
When contesting an application for relocation, the following evidence is useful to show that status quo should be maintained:-
- Reverse of the above checklist
- Evidence that relocation will have a detrimental effect on the child
- Effect on child of loss of regular face to face contact with the staying parent
- Scrutiny of the CAFCASS or Independent Social Worker’s report to identify gaps and false assumptions
- Whether the relocating parent has genuine, children driven motives
- Whether the relocating parent could remain
- Whether the relocating parent will present a positive image of the left behind parent if relocation is permitted
Relocation cases involve a lot of consideration of evidence of how the child’s life would be effected if they remain and if they relocate and effect on both parents of either decision. The fine balance often rests on unique and delicate facts of each case, which is why it is important to agree a strategy from the beginning and identify issues from the start of the case.
For more advice on relocation or anything else related to family law we offer a free 20-minute appointment with a solicitor every Wednesday between 2pm and 4pm. Alternatively, if you have decided to relocate and want to instruct a solicitor to advise, assist and represent you, we can see you for an appointment straight away. Call us today on 020 8492 2290 to book your appointment.