Relocation after divorce is common and really tricky when there are kids involved, here is my step by step guide to relocation with kids.
The first thing you need to know is if there is an existing child arrangement order in place, you are not able to relocate either internally (within the UK) or externally (internationally) without the other’s consent even if you have a ‘lives with’ order. But more than that, for the benefit of your family and your ongoing relationship with your co-parent it is vital you approach this in the right way. It is every parents’ number one fear to lose access to their child. Show your co-parent compassion and try to find ways to reassure them that you are not about to do this – otherwise you will have a battle on your hands and cause yourself and your family unnecessary pain in the process.
When it comes to agreeing a relocation with the other parent you have three options:
1. You agree and document your decision informally.
The best case scenario is as parents you come together and agree on the move and how you will co-parent. This can be recorded either in a parenting plan or a memorandum of understanding. The thing to remember is that these documents show an agreed intent but are not legally binding. Depending on your relationship with your co-parent this may be sufficient.
2. You agree and file a child arrangement order.
However, if you feel that although you have both agreed the relocation and the logistics of co-parenting you need something that is legally binding, you can apply to the court for a voluntary child arrangement order. This is a legally binding document.
3. The courts decide.
If either parent does not agree to the relocation then you can apply for a specific issue order, which means you will present your case to relocate to the court and your co-parent will present their objection. The court will then make the decision for you.
Of course if you are the parent who opposes the relocation and the other parent has made the decision without following the correct process, you can make a prohibited steps order to the court to stop this.
If your relocation does go to court, the decision will be made in the best interests of your child(ren). The court is only interested in the welfare of your child(ren), not the needs and wants of either parent. Court cases tend to be very factual and relocation plans will be scrutinised carefully as to what it means for the child(ren).
Regardless of whether you need to go to court or not, in my opinion it is the responsibility of the parent wanting to relocate to do their research and present to the other parent how this can work for you all as a family (because you are still a family). Below is a list of things to consider and include in your relocation plan:
If your child(ren) are of school age then you need to consider how their education will be affected. Research schools in the new location, compare them to their existing school. Look at timetables, terms and holidays and how the other parent can maintain contact. If possible visit the school in question and find out their availability and any fees.
You will need to find suitable accommodation, and explain the benefits of the new location.
The child(ren) will need access to appropriate healthcare and investigate how the hospitals etc perform.
How long will it take and what are the costs? Will you be bringing the children back or expecting the ‘left behind’ parent to collect them? Or will you be sending the children independently? If you are able to share the travel and costs that may go someway to appeasing the other parent.
If your relocation does go to court, you will need to include the change in cost of living and any changes to your income.
How will you facilitate contact and the relationship between the child(ren) and the other parent? This is the most concerning part for the other parent, so my advice is to make this a priority by giving them the reassurance they need. If you do this you may be able to avoid court altogether.
In international relocations you need to consider how you will support your child(ren) in adapting to the local culture including language, customs and social norms.
How will this move affect the wellbeing of your child(ren)? How can you support your child(ren) during this transition?
Depending on their age and understanding if this goes to court, your child(ren’s) wishes will be included. As parents I hope you also consider this if you do not go to court.
The court will also consider the current relationship of both parents and their arrangements to date and you should too.
The court will of course consider the objections of the remaining parent as well as the effect on the parent wanting to relocate should they refuse the relocation. If permission is given the court can impose certain conditions for example timings and costs for travel.
Relocations are difficult for any family because of the amount of change and emotions involved. The more thorough you can be on how this can work the better. So, where possible try to work with your co-parent to make this as smooth a transition as possible. Good Luck!
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