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When parents separate resolving the arrangements for the children can be one of the most challenging aspects, particularly when separation results in one parent moving not only to a different country but continent.

International child relocation cases often raise unique issues that are not always fully appreciated by all lawyers or indeed the courts. This in part is due to the fact that both domestic and international relocation applications are governed by the same set of legal principles and the fact that, even in today's globalized world, such applications are relatively unusual.

Parents who apply for international relocation often have fundamentally different circumstances, concerns and needs than those parents who want to relocate domestically with their child or children. Understanding these differences and how they impact upon a case is essential when representing either the parent wishing to leave or the one that could be left behind.

Recently our Family Team were instructed by a mother who wished to relocate to South America with her three children following the breakdown of her relationship with their father. Although the children had been raised predominately in the UK, the mother felt isolated upon separation and wanted to return to her native country. The father, appreciating the impact this would inevitably have upon his relationship with the children refused to give his consent resulting in the court having to intervene and decide.

The mother’s case was complicated further by the fact that the country she wished to return to did not subscribe to the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention was established to ensure that orders made by a court in one country regarding a child are enforceable in another provided both countries subscribe.

Critical to the mother’s application therefore was an attention to detail. Scrutiny of her overall proposals, including motive, ensured that by the date of the final hearing all issues had been addressed and the practical consequences of the move considered with proposed solutions that placed the interests of the children foremost. As a result, the court was able to support the mother’s application allowing her to return to her native country with the children.

If you are considering a move from the UK with your children or parent who may potentially be left behind here are 3 Key issues for you to consider:

1.  Consider firstly the reasons and motivation behind the desire to relocate.

A court will look first and foremost at whether the reasons for the move are genuine in the sense that they are not generated by a desire to exclude the other parent from the child’s life.

2.  Have all the proposals and implications of the move been fully considered?

This may seem obvious but hoping things will sort themselves out post move will not suffice. Proposals should be well researched and investigated beforehand. There should be evidence demonstrating that issues regarding accommodation, schooling and healthcare have all been considered and resolved. If the intention of the parent with care is to work is a job offer in place? If the employment will impact upon child care responsibilities how will that be resolved?

3.  What are the proposals for contact with the parent left behind?

Both direct and indirect contact such as e-mail, telephone and video calls should be considered. You will need to analyse the practical arrangements of direct contact and how frequently this could take place. How will the costs of those arrangements be funded and who will undertake the travelling? What are the airline policies regarding unaccompanied children and if the children are to be accompanied who will fund the adult’s flight and any accommodation costs during the visit?

Whether you are the parent prosing to move or the one that may be left behind, obtaining prompt legal advice is essential. At hlw Keeble Hawson we have a number of specialist lawyers who are able to help. For further information please contact a member of our Family Team who will be more than happy to assist you:

Lisa Duffy 01302 308683
Vanessa Fox 0114 2906232
Antony Ball 01302 380225
Cath Degenhart 0114 2906215
Rebecca Crofts 0114 2906265


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