Can I take my child to live abroad without my ex’s permission?
If a parent wishes to take a child permanently abroad, the permission of the other parent or the court must be sought. If you are considering relocating with your child to another country, you should consult a specialist solicitor for advice before doing so.
Applying for leave to remove
If you are a parent and you intend to move abroad with your child permanently and your ex has parental responsibility (or court proceedings about the child are ongoing), you cannot simply ‘up and leave’. You first need to seek permission from your ex (and anyone else with parental responsibility). If, as may often happen due to the sensitive nature of the request, your ex does not agree to the move, the permission of the court must be sought. This type of application is known as a relocation application or an application for leave to remove.
There is no specific provision under relevant legislation regarding permission to relocate, but the child’s welfare will be the paramount consideration when the court is considering the matter. Whilst there is no presumption in favour of allowing the applicant (usually the primary carer) to take the child abroad, in many cases such applications are successful.
What will the court consider?
The questions the court will consider are:
- Is the application genuine?
Sometimes applications to take a child abroad may result from an underlying desire to exclude the other parent from the child’s life. It is therefore important for you to show that contact will continue, and how it can be practical and affordable.
- Are the plans to relocate realistic, in the best interests of the child and well researched?
You must show where you will work, your proposed living and childcare arrangements, whether you have the financial means to support your child abroad, where your child will go to school, whether there is a support network in the proposed country etc.
- The balance between the opposition of the parent staying behind against the effect on you if the application is refused.
What practical points should you consider?
Some practical issues that you, as the applicant, should consider include:
- the ease and cost of travel to the other country for contact;
- the practicalities of contact with your ex;
- the feasibility of alternative methods of contact between visits: will telephone contact be possible, or will the child be able to engage with your ex via the internet using a provider such as Skype?
- whether there are satisfactory nurseries or schools of a good quality and if your child is likely to get a place at one of them;
- whether, depending on the age of your child and the country you are intending to go to, they may need to take English language classes (and if these are available in the new country) so that as they grow up they are able to communicate with the parent who is staying in England;
- whether you and the child will have a broad social network in the new country, for example, do you have family there who can help with childcare?
There are many considerations to take into account when making an application to remove your child from the UK against the will of your ex. For starters, legal costs may be high, the onus is generally on you to prove that the move is in the best interests of your child and there is likely to be a lot of documentation involved.