FAQ: Child Relocation Law in the UK: What Parents Need to Know

Do I need the other parent's consent to relocate our child(ren) within the UK?

There is no legal requirement to seek the consent of all those with parental responsibility to relocate within the UK with the child. This is because the criminal offense of Abduction refers to the taking or sending of a child outside of the UK without the appropriate consent. However, if there is a Court Order in place providing that the child(ren) spend time with the other parent, the relocating parent is under a legal obligation to continue providing court ordered contact to the other parent. The relocating parent would need to consider applying for a variation of the Child Arrangements Order or Contact Order if it is not feasible to continue providing the court-ordered contact, due to distance for example.

It is also worth bearing in mind that relocating is a significant step in a child’s life.  It is strongly recommended that the consent of the other parent is sought before any proposed move.

What can the other parent do to prevent me relocating?

The other parent has the option of applying for a Prohibited Steps Order to seek to prevent the relocation from occurring. Alternatively, in the case of a child being removed to Scotland or Northern Ireland, there is also the option of invoking the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court to secure the child's return.

There is nothing in statute law to preclude a parent from relocating from one part of the UK to another without the consent of all those with PR. However, it has been confirmed throughout case law that the correct approach to take in internal relocation matters is to either obtain consent or permission from the court.

What if the other parent has already relocated with my child(ren)?

The court has the power to issue an order for any person to disclose the whereabouts of a child if his whereabouts are unknown. The information on whereabouts will be disclosed to the court. This power is contained under section 33 Family Act 1986 and the order is an Order for the Disclosure of Information as to the Whereabouts of a Child. It is possible to apply for this order on an emergency basis with one-day notice.

It is also possible to apply for this without notice if there is reason to believe that notifying the other party might lead to further removal of the child.

Do I need the other parent’s consent to relocate our child(ren) outside the UK?

There is a legal requirement to obtain the consent of all those with parental responsibility or the permission of the court to relocate outside the UK (through a Removal from Jurisdiction Order).

It may be a criminal offense if you take your child abroad without the other parent’s permission. The legal situation can be complicated, depending on what has happened and who has legal custody of the child.

What if the other parent has already relocated with my child(ren)?

If you think your child is likely to be taken abroad within 48 hours, you can contact your local police who will contact the National Border Targeting Centre and ask them to alert all points of departure from the UK (like ports and airports), to try to prevent the child being taken out of the country. This is called a ‘port alert’. This will apply for 28 days, giving you time to get legal advice. The 28-day period can only be extended by order of a court.

If your child’s other parent holds a different nationality, contact that country’s embassy, high commission or consulate in the UK. You or your lawyer should write to that embassy, high commission, or consulate and ask them not to issue a passport to your child if the other parent makes an application. They do not have to agree to do this, but they may do so voluntarily.

If you need advice regarding child relocation, please contact Julie Keogh at julie.keogh@blanchardsbailey.co.uk or 01258459361, or visit our Family Law webpage.  

Blanchards Bailey

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