So you’re thinking about moving. It may be within the UK or abroad. As at March 2017 some 134,000 British citizens* chose to emigrate abroad. However, if you are a family where the parents no longer live together then emigrating is not so easy.

Moving in the UK

If you wish to leave the UK with your child to live abroad on a permanent basis (and are separated from the other parent) you will need the permission of the other parent to do so. If that parent withholds their agreement, then you will have to apply to the Court to obtain permission.

According to Resolution there are currently 1,200 cases a year involving relocation applications. The majority of these are brought by the maternal primary carer.

Things to Consider

When considering any such application the Court have to look at certain principles that have been drawn from case law and legislation in these matters. This includes:

  1. The child’s welfare is paramount;
  2. The Court should consider with which parent the child should live, taking account of plans of each parent as to where the family should live;
  3. No presumption in favour of the applicant parent;
  4. Reasonable proposals of the parent with a residence order wishing to live abroad will carry great weight;
  5. There must be a genuine motivation for the move and not an intention to bring contact between the child/children and the other parent to an end;
  6. The effect of refusal on the parent seeking leave to move and their new family;
  7. The effect upon the child of denial of contact with the other parent (and in some cases the wider family members);
  8. The opportunity for continuing contact with the parent left behind;
  9. The child’s wishes and feelings.


What does the above mean? If a child is having regular contact and involvement with the other parent (for example shared care) then the Court are going to be concerned as to the impact of this being terminated (for example, a move to Australia is clearly going to severely restrict contact).

What are the reasons for moving? If they are seeking to “go home” (ie. back to their country of origin where they have family support) then that is a powerful factor for the court to consider as opposed simply a lifestyle choice.

Making a Successful Application

To have a successful application there needs to be a genuine reason for the move and the applicant parent needs to ensure they have conducted the necessary research to ensure they provide detailed information regarding how and where they will live, the support available to them and the child/children (both financially and practically), how contact can be facilitated (including cost and transport) – this is particularly important to ensure that the relationship with the parent left behind is sustained. Failure to do any of these things could lead to a rejection.

For the other parent it is important to highlight and maintain the commitment to contact. If you have been having regular contact that is easy to evidence, if not then you need to be able to show why this has not happened (for instance, is the resident parent preventing this?). Are there any medical issues that may impact upon a child if a move to a less developed country? Each case will turn on its own facts and it is important to carefully scrutinise any application and statement in support carefully.

Hidden Issues

Equally people will often simply move about within the UK to suit themselves without a thought as to the impact upon a separated family. For example, people think that simply moving from say London to Cornwall is fine. A Court however, can be asked to consider the nature of such a move in a similar way to a relocation outside the UK.

The main issues regarding relocation in the UK is whether it is for a genuine reason or whether it is designed to frustrate contact. For example a move from London to Cornwall can make travelling significantly difficult, particularly for a parent reliant on public transport. If the former, then it is likely to be granted but if the latter a Court can make conditions on any residence order to ensure that a move does not take place.

The key thing to all of the above is that the welfare of the child or children is paramount and, to the writer, the most important thing you can do for your child is be able to communicate sensibly. It is often at these times when communication is so important that it is lost with the parents becoming polarised in their positions. Both mediation and more particularly Reunite** (a specialist mediation service for these types of matters) are available to parents to try to help them resolve matters in the best way for their child.

If anything mentioned above affects you and you would like further information, please contact Fiona Pawsey at or 01202 877400.

*Migration Watch UK


This article is intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

Fiona Pawsey
Article by Fiona Pawsey
Fiona has been practicing family law for over 12 years initially as a Legal Executive and then subsequently as a solicitor. Fiona is a trained collaborative solicitor, as well as a Resolution Panel Member. She is experienced in advising clients going through divorce or family breakdown, including financial settlements and disputes over children, in particular complex contact and residence issues. In addition to family law Fiona also deals with litigation, property transactions and residential Conveyancing

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