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Can I take my Child Abroad Without a Court Order?

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With the relaxation of pandemic related travel restrictions in many countries and the rise in hybrid and remote working, many parents are questioning whether they can take their children abroad to live. Family and children law lawyers are asked this question after a parental separation or divorce as parents crave a safe and warm environment in which to bring up their children. On an overcast day in London, you can understand the attraction of a change in lifestyle but children law solicitors caution that if you want to relocate overseas with your child you will either need the other parent’s agreement or a court order.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors and Children Lawyers

For child relocation legal advice and relocation orders call the expert London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form .

Relocating abroad – whose agreement do you need?

Whether you are an unmarried or married or divorcing parent the likelihood is that you will need the other parent’s agreement (and the agreement of anyone else with parental responsibility  for the child) before you can move overseas with your child.

If you are unmarried, and you aren’t sure if your ex has parental responsibility, speak to a children lawyer to check this out and your next steps. Likewise, if you have a complex family relationship and you aren’t sure whether a step-parent has parental responsibility for your child or not then take some legal advice. That way you can understand your rights and whose agreement you need to obtain.

It can also be a question of asking whose support it would be helpful to have. You may not require the agreement of a grandparent or aunt in order to move overseas but it can be best to discuss your plans with them if your child has a close relationship with them. For example, because a grandparent has done all the child minding for you or because your child is very close in age to his or her cousins. Whilst extended family may not need to agree to the move, and they may well not initially approve, you can at least reassure them about visits to see you and trips back to the UK.

Relocating overseas and getting the other parent’s agreement

Parents can get quite vexed when the other parent won't agree to their child moving overseas. This vexation can quickly lead to polarised views and an inability to discuss or communicate, let alone reach a compromise.

Children solicitors warn that you only get one chance to first broach the subject of your child relocating abroad so it is best to plan your conversation with the other parent so you don’t ‘blow it’. However, you should not put off having the conversation as even a relatively young child can innocently mention overheard plans and that’s the worst way the other parent can find out about a proposed relocation.

Getting your ex’s agreement to your child’s move overseas is always tricky and sensitive. Here are our tips:

  • Approach your discussion about your planned move based on why it would be good for your child . It can be hard to accept a move if it is coming about because your new partner is from overseas and wants to go back home or because you have decided that you want to advance your career by taking a secondment abroad. Looking at why the move would be good for your child too can help.
  • Expect resistance. When you are caught up in the excitement of a planned move overseas it can be hard to understand other people’s scepticism about the move to a new country. Try to put yourself in their position to gain a better understanding of their concerns and how to address them.
  • Do your research. If you have not done your research then the other parent may think that your dream is just a passing whim that is best ignored. If you have researched the area of the country you want to live in and house, job and school options then this will show that you are serious about your planned move.
  • Don’t judge. It can be easy to start blaming your ex for your desire to move overseas. For example, by blaming their parenting skills, lack of child support or infrequent contact. Whilst all those things may be true, they are likely to result in angry exchanges, cross words and both of you refusing to budge.
  • Pre-empt contact discussions. Most parents can see that better weather, education, housing or job opportunities would be good for their child but the stumbling block to a move overseas can be contact and how that will work if the child is in a different country. It is therefore best to think about and research contact before you discuss your plans with your ex. For example, will your child be able to travel in the school holidays to see their other parent? What about extended family contact? Can contact be maintained by phone and facetime contact?
  • Who can help with the discussion? Sometimes your in-laws can be your best support, alternatively a family friend, godparent or family mediator may help you have a calm and non-judgemental discussion about whether your planned move is in the best interests of your child and help you secure the agreement of your ex-partner.
  • Get the agreement in writing. If you want to rely on the agreement it needs to be in writing. A parent can change their mind but it is harder to do so if they have agreed to the move.

Applying to court for a relocation order 

Sometimes it is impossible to get agreement. It is very tempting for a parent to just leave the UK with their child and go. That isn’t the answer as you could be committing an offence of child abduction. Proceedings could be commenced for the summary return of the child to the UK if the country you have taken your child to is a signatory of the Hague Convention.

If a court application is necessary, you should not expect an immediate decision as any children law application takes time to resolve. You should therefore allow plenty of time to make your application before the start of a job overseas or the new school term start date in your chosen location.

When you apply for a relocation order the court will have to assess whether making the relocation order is in the child’s best interests. The court will want to carry out a thorough assessment of what is in your child’s best interests by looking at your plans to relocate.

A well-researched case is often the key to a successful application so your children law solicitor will want to talk to you about the reasons for your move, your detailed plans as well as getting information about your planned relocation; such as crime statistics, affordability of suitable accommodation, if there will be any language barriers and how they will be overcome, proposed contact plans etc.

If you want to relocate overseas and your ex says no then you should not be put off. Speak to a children lawyer about what is involved in a relocation order application so you can understand the court process and your options.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors and Children Lawyers

For child relocation legal advice and orders call the expert London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

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