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Family Law

Divorce: I Want To Move Abroad With My Children. How Can I Do This?

If you want to emigrate with your children, you will need written consent from the other parent. Learn what to do if they refuse. Read more...

Divorce: I Want To Move Abroad With My Children. How Can I Do This?

You Must Get Consent

If you want to move abroad with your children, you will need written consent from the other parent. You will also need written permission from any other person who has parental responsibility for the children.

So you must first approach the other parent and ask them. If you’re not comfortable doing that, we can ask on your behalf.

If the other parent does not consent, you will need to apply to the court for permission.

How To Avoid Costly Court Proceedings

Moving abroad is a huge step in life, one that involves major family, financial and work commitments. There are likely to be significant costs too, along with a lot of visa/residence permit documentation.

So you cannot afford to let a last-minute hitch ruin your plans. Hence the need for possible court action. But going to court can be expensive and time-consuming – so it should always be a last resort.

Instead, it would be worth trying mediation first to see if you can reach an agreement with your former partner.

Mediation is a process in which a neutral third-party mediator facilitates communication and negotiations to help divorcing spouses reach agreement on various issues related to their separation.

Unlike a judge, the mediator does not make decisions for you. Instead they help you and your partner to find mutually acceptable solutions.

Here’s how the mediation process generally works:

  • Initial Meeting – you and your former partner meet with the mediator to discuss the process, clarify goals and identify the issues you need to resolve.
  • Joint Sessions – you, your former partner and the mediator engage in joint sessions to discuss your concerns, needs and preferences regarding the disagreement.
  • Individual Sessions (if necessary) – the mediator may also meet with you and your former partner separately to explore your individual perspectives and concerns confidentially.
  • Agreement – once you and your former partner agree on all the relevant issues, the mediator helps you to draft a document outlining the terms of your settlement.

Mediation is usually quicker and cheaper than going to court – and it allows you to remain in control at all times. All the discussions are confidential, promoting open communication without fear of statements being used against either party in court.

However, there are also potential pitfalls…

If one spouse has significantly more power or control in the relationship, it may affect the fairness of the negotiations. 

Mediation may not work if you and your former partner cannot communicate effectively or if there are significant unresolved conflicts.

And while the agreements reached in mediation are typically followed by both parties, they are not legally binding so there is no guarantee that both parties will adhere to them in the long term.

Contact us for more information about mediation and to arrange a referral to a mediator. If mediation does not work – or the other parent does not want to attend – we can help you to make an application to court.

What Your Application Should Include

These days, many people are being forced to go to the family court without a solicitor because they can’t afford one. 

Sadly, this can be fraught with potential pitfalls because these litigants in person don’t know the law and the way in which the courts operate.

So good legal advice is essential. It is vital to get your legal application right. You will need to think about various factors including: 

  • Where you will live and work in the new country.
  • Where your child/children will go to school.
  • Healthcare arrangements.
  • How you can afford the move.
  • Your family/support network after the move.
  • Can you satisfy immigration requirements? Ideally this would be in progress or confirmed before the application is made to the court.
  • How will your child/children have contact with the other parent? Will you bring them back to visit your former partner? Are the children old enough to travel on their own?
  • Does the other parent have a connection with the new location? Would they visit that country anyway?
  • What would be the impact on you and your children if you were to be prevented from moving? 

The rules differ depending on whether or not there is a Child Arrangements Order in place. We can help you to navigate this.

It could take the court months to deal with your case. So you will need to take legal advice as soon as you’re aware the other parent doesn’t agree with your plans.

What If I Take My Children Abroad Without The Other Parent’s Permission?

If you don’t follow the rules, you could be committing a criminal offence under the Child Abduction Act 1984. The maximum penalty is seven years’ imprisonment.

You may also fall foul of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

This international treaty provides a legal framework for the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed or retained across international borders by one parent – typically in violation of the other parent’s rights.
These rules also apply to holidays abroad. And again, the rules differ depending on whether or not there is a Child Arrangements Order.

You do not need written consent for relocation within the UK. But the other parent could still apply for a Prohibited Steps Order to stop you from moving. If you wished to proceed with your move, you would need to defend that application. Again, you would need to take legal advice.

Get Expert Legal Advice

For more information on emigrating with your children or on taking them on holiday abroad, contact Associate Solicitor Anna Burton.

Anna is an experienced family solicitor who specialises in divorce, civil partnership dissolution, children arrangements, resolving finances, pre-nuptial and postnuptial agreements, Special Guardianship Orders, injunctions and change of name. She is based at our Bournemouth office.

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