What happens when a parent wants to move away and take the children with them?

These days more and more people are spending time abroad, whether they’re overseas on business, trying to build a new life in a different country, or just taking a long trip.

There are plenty of reasons a parent might want to take their child abroad for an extended period, or even indefinitely. However, if the parents have separated, there's a possibility that this could result in disagreement, especially if one party feels they are being ‘pushed out’ of the family unit and that the move is done to deliberately reduce the amount of time they can spend with the children.

If it’s done amicably, and good arrangements are put in place to ensure the children spend a reasonable amount of time with each parent, then there shouldn’t be a problem – regardless of whether one party moves to an EU or non-EU country. However, if the process is rushed, isn’t given enough thought, or is done out of malice, there could be serious consequences further down the line, especially for the children.

Living Arrangements

Living arrangements settled outside court require a lot of co-operation between the parents. So, generally, ex-partners tend to live relatively close to one another to ensure the child has adequate contact with each parent. Naturally, this is tough to achieve if one parent wants to move abroad with the child. Currently, there are no major barriers on movement between the UK and the EU, so it should be easy for contact to be maintained. However, bear in mind that in a few months’ time we’re exiting the EU, and restrictions on both residency and free movement between the UK and the EU may change dramatically. It’s a matter of ‘watch this space’, and if you are planning to move abroad, talk to an expert in family law who may be able to advise you on the various scenarios we may be facing once the Brexit dust settles.

If you’re moving abroad and want to take the children with you, or if you’re the one being left behind in the UK, you need to know your rights – not just for yourself, but for the sake of your children, too.

Parental Responsibility

Firstly, you need to find out whether you have parental responsibility for your children. If you do, then you legally have a right to contribute to the fundamental decisions that impact your children. This includes whether your child moves abroad with your ex, or stays in the UK with you.

Presently, by default, mothers have parental responsibility. Fathers only automatically gain these rights if they’re married to the mother. Unmarried fathers can also acquire these rights if their child was born after 1st December 2003, as long as the father is named on the birth certificate.

If your child was born before 1st December 2003, and you are not married to the mother, you don’t automatically have parental responsibility unless:

  1. The court grants you parental responsibility
  2. You’ve entered a formal agreement with the child's mother using the appropriate documentation.

You have parental responsibility, now what?

If you have parental responsibility, your ex can’t take your children out of the country to live abroad legally unless you give your permission.

If you’re happy with their new living arrangement, it’s wise to get a UK court order highlighting the terms of the agreement. This should include the amount of contact you'll have when the child moves abroad. Once completed, get a "mirror" order from the EU country the child is moving to. This is essential, as all issues of custody are then dealt with by the laws set in the country where the child is living.

What if you don’t want your child to move?

If you don’t want your child to move abroad, your ex-partner needs to apply to the court for an order to agree to their case. If they decide to press the issue, always get professional legal advice.

Sadly, sometimes children are taken abroad without permission from the other parent. This is known as ‘child abduction’. Fortunately, there are legal agreements between the UK and the other EU countries that make it easier to ensure the safe return of your child to the UK if they have been taken without consent.

If you're a parent handling a child abduction case, make sure you:

  • Hire a solicitor who specialises in this field
  • Make an application to the court as quickly as you can.

The faster you file your application, the sooner your child will be returned. Then, once the child is back in the UK, the court needs to decide whether it’s appropriate for your ex to move abroad with your children on a more permanent basis.

The case in non-EU countries

Outside the EU, things can get more complicated. You can come to an arrangement (in writing) concerning how often the children can visit, who pays for travel costs, and how much say the parent left behind has over their day-to-day concerns such as education, etc.

However, it will also depend on the individual laws in the country your children are now living in, and what kind of cross-border relationship there is between the two legal systems as to whether this agreement is acted upon. Put simply, even if you do get a written agreement in place before the children move abroad, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be enforced by the legal system in the country that the child is now living in. That can make it very difficult to challenge the arrangement unless you have clear proof that the welfare of the child is at risk.

If your ex-partner is planning to take your children abroad, speak to a family law specialist as soon as you can. Jane Wheeler is an experienced family lawyer and can be contacted on 023 9224 6714 or by email to jane.wheeler@verisonalaw.com.


We have set out below a full list of the services our Family Department can provide whatever your circumstances. If you do however have a query which does not relate to any matter detailed below, please do contact our Family team who will endeavour to assist you.

Divorce or Civil Partnership Dissolution

Whether you are the Petitioner or the Respondent within proceedings or whether you are simply contemplating the same we can provide guidance throughout the entire process. We can assist with:

  • Drafting of documents
  • Negotiations with the other party
  • Correspondence with third parties such as the Court
  • Advice face to face, by telephone, by email.

Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements

Whether you are planning to marry or indeed have now married and wish to formalise arrangements in the event of separation we can advise and assist with the following:

  • Drafting agreements
  • Negotiating settlement
  • Corresponding with all parties

Separation

Whether you are married or living together and in the event you decide to go your separate ways we can assist in formally documenting terms of separation. We can assist in the following ways:

  • Drafting Separation Agreements whether in contemplation of divorce or whether to simply record the split of a cohabiting couple
  • Negotiations with third parties
  • Providing you with advice whether face to face, by telephone or by email.

Arbitration

Arbitration is an alternative to resolving disputes through the Court. At Verisona Law we can assist in a number of ways either by assisting you through the Arbitration or by referring matters to our in house Arbitrator. We offer competitive arbitration rates and a member of our team will be happy to assist with any queries in this regard. Please see our current articles on Arbitration for more details about the process.

Cohabitees/living together

If you have chosen not to marry but wish to live together you may wish to formalise the arrangements and details for doing so. We can assist in the following:

  • Drafting cohabitation agreements/living together agreements
  • Negotiations with all parties
  • Advising you in person, by telephone or email as appropriate.

Divorce where Business are involved

We have extensive experience in dealing with breakdown of marriage where one or both parties are owners of businesses or indeed it may be the family business. We have experience in providing you with advice and signposting for business valuations and will ensure that the business as an asset is dealt with appropriately within any proceedings.

Pensions

In addition to being able to provide specialised advice in relation to Public Sector pensions our team at Verisona Law has vast knowledge concerning all pension arrangements and can ensure that they are dealt with appropriately within any divorce proceedings. Please seek advice from a member of our team.

Parental Responsibility

We are able to advise on all aspects of Parental Responsibility including:

  • Agreements / Orders
  • Exercising your Parental Responsibility rights and duties where appropriate
  • Arising out of Parental Responsibility we can advise on applications for a Specific Issue Order to the Court if appropriate.

If you have any queries concerning Parental Responsibility and its impact on you or indeed whether you have Parental Responsibility for your children, please seek advice from a member of our team.

Assisting through Mediation

Whilst we do direct a number of matters through Mediation, this does not mean that you cannot have legal advice throughout the process. We can advise and assist you through the Mediation process and arrange thereafter to draw up formally any agreement reached be this by way of a Consent Order in divorce proceedings or simply to record in an open document the agreement you have reached at Mediation concerning the subject of your dispute.

Property Disputes

Whether you are married or otherwise, or indeed simply have an interest in a property owned by another we can provide you with advice and assistance including;

  • Applications to the Court
  • Negotiations with all parties
  • Advising and assisting you face to face, by telephone or by email.

Collaborative Law

This is an alternative way to resolve family disputes without the involvement of the Court. The Collaborative process requires both parties to have a Collaborative Lawyer and endeavours to resolve any disputes by way of four way meetings. We at Verisona Law can assist you through the Collaborative process. If this is an avenue of resolving dispute that you would be interested in, please contact a member of our team.

Children

We at Verisona Law can provide you with advice and guidance concerning any disputes you may have relating to your child. This may be with whom the child lives, with whom the child spends time with, a specific issue concerning a child or steps that you wish to take to prevent something happening (Prohibited Steps Order). We can also advise you in relation to maintenance disputes with a third party guidance with dealing with the Child Maintenance Service. If you have a query with any issue concerning your child please contact a member of our team.

Change of Name

Please contact a member of our team if you are interested in changing your first or surname to discuss the drafting of a Change of Name Deed. We offer a fixed price for a Change of Name and we can provide you with further information upon request.

I went to Verisona Law because I had been unsatisfied with two previous attempts with other firms. Verisona gave that real sense of service, made.me feel like a client they were happy to assist at all times and ultimately gave the BEST advice and guidance. Dont waste money; go to Verisona FIRST!


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