Child Relocation Laws: What Every Parent Should Know

Child Relocation Laws: What Every Parent Should Know

With the rise of hybrid and remote work opportunities in recent years, it’s become easier than ever to pack up and move to a new town, city or even a new country. However, if you’re a parent, it’s never quite that straightforward, especially if your child is in school, has great friends and doesn’t want to move.

If you share parental responsibility with a former partner, relocating with a child can become even more problematic, regardless of how good your co-parenting relationship is, or how great the opportunity that’s prompted the desired move may be. It’s not quite as straightforward as deciding you want to move, finding a new place to live and then happily moving on to your next chapter. There are lots of legal considerations and requirements to meet when relocating with a child.

What are the legal framework and requirements for child relocation?

In a perfect world, your co-parent will be on board with the move and excited for the new experiences that lay ahead for you and your child. However, if that isn’t the case, or if there is conflict within the co-parenting relationship, you’ll need to be aware of the legal framework so you can be sure you’re meeting the requirements for relocating with your child.

Whether you’re hoping to move overseas or simply to a new destination within the UK, you’ll need to ensure you obtain consent from the child’s other parent and any other persons who have parental responsibility for the child.

If you can’t come to an agreement between yourselves, the family court will need to intervene. The court will decide what’s in the best interests of the child in line with The Children Act 1989.

The primary factor influencing whether you’ll be legally permitted to relocate with your child is the child’s welfare. That means a broad scope of considerations will need to be taken into account, including their relationship with the other parent, any siblings, education and healthcare needs.

Because the welfare of the child is of primary importance, you should be able to show that you have carefully considered all the potential implications and weighed up the pros and cons of your move. It’s likely that you’ll need to provide details such as:

  • Why the move will be beneficial.
  • Where you plan to move to and what amenities exist in the area to benefit your child.
  • New employment opportunities that come with the move.
  • How the child will maintain their relationship with the other parent and any siblings that won’t be relocating.
  • The school that the child will attend in the new location.
  • Opportunities that exist for the child to pursue sport, engage in after-school activities or further enrich their development.
  • What the impact of not moving may be. For example, would it cause you to be financially worse off or have a negative impact on the wellbeing of your child?

What factors and considerations should parents be aware of when relocating with a child?

Making a significant life change such as moving to a new location – whether that’s within the same country or even further afield – is never an easy process. That burden is magnified when you need to consider not just how that move will directly impact your child, but how it will weigh on their relationship with their other parent.

Relocation is never easy. If there is resistance from the other parent, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate that you have carefully considered the wellbeing of your child and that any move will be of benefit to them.

It may be that you’re not able to reach an agreement with your former partner or, that you don’t wish to discuss your plans with them – perhaps because of a history of domestic abuse. If that’s the case, having a well-reasoned, well-prepared argument for relocation before going to court is vital.

You should focus on reasonable and practical considerations which prioritise the best interests of your child. For example:

  • Education: you’ll need to research school placements and arrangements for your child before committing to a move.
  • Contact: Will it be easy for the other parent to see their child? How and when will they be able to visit? Will it be easy for them to do so? Will video calls and other contact be easy to maintain?
  • Quality of life: Will the child’s quality of life be improved by the move? Will they be closer to family, have access to amenities that will enrich their live, or be financially more secure?

If you’re considering relocating, our experienced family solicitors can help you navigate this new chapter in line with the legal requirements and best interests of your child. Call or email us to discuss your situation in confidence.

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Shaoli has been a solicitor at NLS for over two years, transitioning from a background in criminal law to full-time family law. Her experience as a Criminal Duty Solicitor has equipped her with unique skills that are invaluable in her current role.
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