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International relocation of a child following separation - what are the facts?

View profile for Graeme Barclay
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Following a separation there could be many reasons why someone may wish to relocate abroad; they may originate from another country and wish to return to their home and be around a familiar support network, they may have been offered employment, they may have a new partner who lives abroad, or they may simply wish to try a new culture and make a fresh start.  But what happens in this situation when there is a child involved and the other parent would remain in the UK?  Graeme Barclay, Family Partner, explains the rights of parents in this situation, and how to reach a resolution peacefully with the child’s best interests at heart.

What is the law about relocating a child following separation?

“The law in this area revolves round two main issues; parental responsibility and consent,” explains Graeme.  “If a parent wishes to relocate abroad with their child, they cannot do so without the written consent of the other person who has parental responsibility, whether it is on a permanent or temporary basis.  If for some reason the other biological parent does not have parental responsibility, for example if the child was born out of marriage and they were not named on the birth certificate, written consent should also be obtained from them.”

Child relocation without parental consent

If consent is not given by the remaining parent, the first step before applying to Court would be for them to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to see if an agreement can be reached by attending Mediation instead of going to Court.

If it’s clear however that mediation would not be suitable or one parent does not wish to undertake mediation, then the next step for the relocating parent would be to apply to Court to seek permission for the right to leave, or to gain a Child Arrangement Order specifying the relocation. 

“The Judge will focus predominantly on the child’s best interests and will be guided by factors revolving around this,” continues Graeme.  “They will consider such areas as the wishes and feelings of the child concerned, their physical, emotional and education needs, their age and background relationships with each parent as well as the likely impact on them following a change of this nature.  The Judge will also view the motives behind the parent wishing to leave; are they leaving to cause pain and suffering to the remaining parent, or do they genuinely believe their child will be better off in another country.  If this is the case, they will need to demonstrate that they have the necessary plans in place to ensure a smooth transition and continued welfare of the child, such as their housing, medical needs, education, how they will continue to have contact with the other parent, whether there are any language barriers the child will have to overcome and how the parent will earn an income.”

Just as a parent may wish to relocate a child to cause emotional pain to the remaining parent, likewise the remaining parent may refuse consent based on their own wishes.  Graeme explains, “It is therefore paramount that no matter whether you are applying to the Court to have permission to leave, or whether you’re fighting against it, you must demonstrate you have the best interests of the child in mind.”

Child relocation or child abduction?

During these proceedings it is not unheard of for the relocating parent to remove the child anyway, and if the other parent is concerned this could happen they can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order.  If the parent does remove the child regardless of any order, then they are guilty of child abduction under the Hague Convention.

Graeme concludes, “Finding a resolution in these situations is difficult but not impossible.  Every case will be different depending on the age of the children, the country that one parent wishes to relocate to, the financial resources available, flexibility of the remaining parent’s employment; the list goes on.  We have many years experience of working with parents wishing to relocate, as well as those fighting to have their children remain in the UK.  We understand the emotional turmoil parents will be in, and can explain the best approach based on your particular circumstance.”

If you would like more information on relocating with your child following a separation or divorce, or you are concerned your ex-partner is likely to leave the UK without your consent, you can contact Graeme or the Family team on 02380 717431 or email


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.