If you would like to move to a different part of the UK with a child, all those that have parental responsibility should agree.
There is no legal requirement to acquire formal consent from the other parent where you are relocating within the UK. However, relocating without their consent is firmly cautioned against. The parent that is opposing the relocation may bring an application to prevent it.
A mother will automatically have parental responsibility for a child from birth.
A father will have parental responsibility if married to the mother when the child was born or if listed as the child’s father on the birth certificate.
Others can apply to have parental responsibility for a child (such as grandparents), so there may be other parties whose consent should be required in some cases.
What if they do not Consent?
If the other parent does not agree to you relocating elsewhere in the UK with the child and the issue cannot be resolved, you should apply to the Family Court for a Specific Issue Order before you move.
You may be able to resolve the matter through Mediation without needing to resort to court.
However, if a court application is made, the welfare of the child will be the court’s main consideration. The court will consider how permission or refusal to relocate will affect the parents and the children. The court will consider the parent’s plans and whether the wish to relocate and opposition is genuine.
There can be many justifiable reasons for relocation. For example:
- Moving closer to other relatives, such as the child’s grandparents, to get additional familial support, such as with childcare;
- Moving for the child’s education, such as to enable them to attend a specific school;
- Moving to improve a child’s quality of life, such as to an area that offers more desirable surroundings or better opportunities for housing;
- Moving for work reasons.
The court will want to hear about the following:
- The current contact arrangements and how these will be impacted.
- How contact will take place with the other parent if the children move and any practicalities.
- The wishes of the children as far as you are aware regarding the relocation.
What if there is a Child Arrangements Order in place?
If you have been through proceedings to acquire a Child Arrangements Order, and there is an order in force that specifically states with who the child will live with, that parent does not need to obtain permission to relocate within the UK from the other parent, given that the court ordered contact can still take place.
If you have an order for a child to spend a certain number of nights with their other parent, you would need to consider whether that would be able to take place after relocating. This may not be possible, particularly if there is mid-week contact.
It is important to seek legal advice if there is an existing child arrangements order in place before you decide on relocation.
What if I am Opposing a Relocation?
If the other parent has already applied for a Specific Issue Order, then you can defend this if you do not consider it is in your child’s best interests to move.
The court will also want to hear about how relocation could affect the contact you have with the child.
If the other parent has not made an application, you can apply to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order. This is an order that prevents the other parent from making the desired relocation. It is important you take legal advice early to enable you to act quickly.
If you do not have parental responsibility but consider you ought to, such as you are the biological father of the child but were not included on the birth certificate, you can make an application to the court for a parental responsibility order concurrently.
Relocating Without the Other Parent’s Consent
A parent may relocate despite the other parent’s objection and without an order from the court.
Providing relocation was within the UK, this would not constitute the offence of abduction. For it to constitute abduction, it would require the child would need to be taken outside the UK.
However, you should seek legal advice regarding the options that are available to you.
You may consider applying for a Child Arrangements Order to manage the contact you have with your child and to consider where the child’s home should be.
If you are unsure about where your child has been taken in the UK, you can apply to the court for disclosure of the whereabouts of a child.
If you are intending to relocate with a child or are concerned that your ex-partner is planning to relocate with your child, you must seek legal advice early.
Article written by Rachel Forster, Solicitor within the Family Law Team at Myerson.
Rachel is a solicitor within the Family Team at Myerson. She has a particular interest in complex financial settlements and has assisted in many high-value cases, including those with complex business assets or with elements of non-disclosure. Rachel is a member of Resolution and is committed to resolving matters amicably where possible. Rachel is also an active member of Manchester’s Young Resolution Committee and volunteers as a Mentor for law students at the University of Law who are aspiring to become solicitors.