Can My Ex Partner Stop Me From Moving Away With My Child?
The breakdown of a relationship is a difficult time for any family and emotions can run particularly high when children are involved. Decisions have to be made regarding with whom the children will live and the contact arrangements that will be in place with the other parent. Hopefully, these decisions will work well and allow the family situation to become more settled for the benefit of everyone involved.
When it comes to the custody of a child, law-related questions are increasingly common from clients as to whether or not their ex spouse or partner can prevent them from moving away with their children. There can be many reasons for this question, perhaps because they wish to relocate to take a new job or start afresh in a different location. Sometimes it may be to remove themselves from tension with their ex or because they have met someone else.
The quick answer to this from a legal perspective is that it depends entirely on the particular situation and the current agreements in place, as is often the case in family and child law,
When one parent wishes to move away with a child, either within England or Wales (so within the jurisdiction) or outside of these countries (outside the jurisdiction), a great deal of distress can be caused for all involved and it is key that things are handled with great sensitivity. If the children currently live with one parent, known as the "primary carer", and have contact with the other parent, known as the "non-resident parent", it is often assumed that if the primary carer relocates the children will go with them. However, this is not always the case and the wishes of the Primary Carer can be challenged.
Try to Reach an Agreement
The first step should be for both parties to try and reach an amicable agreement between themselves. If this is possible, there may be no need to go to court and a great deal of stress and upset can be avoided. Obviously, the huge impact that a move can have on one parent and the child will mean that this is not always possible.
If an agreement is not possible, it may become necessary to make an application to the court to gain permission to relocate with the children, or to prevent relocation. In the past, it was unusual for the Primary Carer to be challenged about the relocation of their children due to the widely held belief that this would be fruitless. However, recent case law indicates that times have changed and the impact on all involved will be considered, with the overarching principle being the welfare of the child.
Impact on the Child
Donna Goodsell comments that many factors will be weighed by the court to ascertain the best interests of the child. These might include the impact of a refusal on the parent who wishes to locate, the effect on the child caused by a reduction in contact with the other parent, plus the impact on the remaining parent. A shared care arrangement may also be considered.
Taking a child away from one parent is never a decision that should be taken lightly in child law and the welfare of all children must always be paramount.