If you would like to relocate to a different part of the UK with a child, all those with parental responsibility should agree. 

There is no legal requirement to obtain formal consent from the other parent where you are relocating within the UK, but relocating without their consent is firmly cautioned against. The parent opposing the relocation may bring an application to prevent it. 

A mother automatically has 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 sought in some cases.

What if they do not consent?

If the other parent does not agree to you relocating in the UK with the child and you cannot resolve the issue, 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 recourse to court.

However, if a court application is made, the welfare of the child will be the court's paramount 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.

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.

Relocating With Children in the UK

What if we have a Child Arrangements Order in place?

If you have been through proceedings to obtain a Child Arrangements Order, and there is an order in force which specifically states with who the child will live, that parent does not need to obtain permission to relocate within the UK from the other parent, providing 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. In many cases, particularly if there is mid-week contact, this will not be possible.

It is important to take legal advice if there is an existing child arrangements order in place before you make a decision regarding relocation.

What if I am opposing a relocation?

If the other parent has already applied for a Specific Issue Order, you can defend this if you do not consider it is in your child's best interests to relocate.

The court will want to hear about how relocation could impact your contact with the child.

If the other parent has not made an application, you can apply to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order, which is an order preventing that parent from making the intended relocation. It is important to 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 named on the birth certificate, you can make an application to the court for a parental responsibility order concurrently. 

Relocating without 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, as this requires the child to be taken outside the UK.

However, you should seek legal advice on the options available to you.

You may consider applying for a Child Arrangements Order to regulate the contact you have with your child and to consider where the child's home should be. 

If you are unclear about where your child has been taken within the UK, you can apply to the court for disclosure of a child's whereabouts.

Here to Help

If you are considering relocating with a child or are concerned that your ex-partner may be planning to relocate with your child, you must seek legal advice at an early stage. If you have any questions or would like more information, you can contact our Family Law Team below.

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