Crossing the pond with children…is it really just a hop away?

As divorce solicitors based in the UK we are finding ourselves dealing with ever increasing numbers of cases involving international relationships.

The rise of the internet, cheap travel and global corporations has all contributed to the growth in children with parents who are of a different nationality to one another.  This of course is not a problem until mum and dad separate.

Following a relationship breakdown it is not surprising that many people want to return home where there may be more family support, better job prospects and in some cases a new relationship. And so those people ask us, ‘can I take my child with me?’

The answer if you live in the UK is that you cannot leave permanently with a child, or indeed even for a foreign holiday, without the other parent’s agreement. If you choose to leave without that consent you could face criminal charges for child abduction.

If, therefore, a client wants to move across the pond or indeed anywhere outside the UK I advise them first to discuss the issue with the other parent. I also recommend doing thorough research before having that conversation. The parent who is being asked to agree to their child being taken out of the country will want to know basic information such as:

  • Where will you be living? What will the accommodation be like?
  • Are the schools good? Will our child get a place? How will they transfer from the UK system?
  • How will you manage day to day? Will you have child care support?
  • How often will I be able to see and speak to our child? How practically can this be facilitated? Will it be expensive?

Ideally you should be ready with answers to these questions, preferably with photographs, pages from the internet, brochures, prospectuses, flight timetables and so on. The more you can do to reassure your former partner that they will be able to maintain a strong relationship with their child the more likely that they will agree to you moving.

In reality, however, the child’s relationship with the parent being left behind is likely to change and they may be unwilling to give their consent. So what then?

The family court’s in England can override the objections and grant permission for a parent to move abroad with a child if it considers it to be in the child’s best interests.

When deciding whether to allow such a move the court will ask itself various questions including:

  • Is the request to leave genuine or is it motivated by a selfish desire to exclude the other parent from the child’s life?
  • Is the proposal realistic? Has it been properly planned and researched?
  • How will the child’s relationship with the parent being left behind be affected?
  • Is this made up for by new relationships that will be established?
  • What will be the impact on the parent asking to leave if that request is not granted?

The overriding concern of the court will be the child’s welfare.

The greater the current level of involvement of the parent who would be left behind the less likely the application will be granted.

If you wish to make the hop my advice is preparation, preparation, preparation particularly in relation to arrangements for maintaining the child’s relationship with their other parent.

This is a tremendously emotive and difficult area with so many factors to balance. I have no doubt it will continue to be an area where we see increasing numbers of cases.

This was a guest article written by British family law firm Pannone. For more information please visit their website –

This post was written by Mark Keenan. Editor of the Divorce Online Blog and Managing Director of Online Legal Service Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.

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