Moving with children after separation

It is common for parents to relocate after a divorce or separation. There are many reasons you might want to move: a new job or a new partner; getting away after a difficult breakup; moving nearer to family and friends; or just seeking a new start.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to think carefully about the impact on your children. And, if the other parent objects, you may need to get a child arrangement order from the court. Child arrangement orders have replaced residence orders’ and ‘contact orders’. If you already have one of these, you don’t need to reapply.

Requests for these orders can be refused where there are ‘exceptional circumstances’. In a case known as Re F (2010), the court denied a mother’s request to move from north-east England to Orkney. The court ruled that the move would affect the children’s welfare as one had dyspraxia and mild autism another had expressed strong feelings against the move.

Requests for orders to move abroad with children are usually treated with greater scrutiny but those considered ‘reasonable’ are not usually refused.

When considering a request for an overseas residence order, courts will examine the reasons for the request. The court will consider the child’s quality of life including arrangements for schools and housing, the relationship between the child and the other parent back at home and the practicalities for maintaining contact.

To ensure the order is enforced in the destination country, the court may require the relocating parent to obtain an order in that country to comply with local jurisdiction, or to pay a financial security, or bond. The relocating parent could face prosecution if they breach the terms of an overseas order, so it’s important to check the details carefully.

It can be extremely upsetting for a separated or divorced parent to be told that their ex wants to relocate with the children. However, the courts will consider each case on its own merits and the children’s welfare will determine whether the order is granted.

To avoid the costs and aggravation of a court case, parents should work to settle their differences and come to an agreement. It may be helpful to work with a mediator or to seek legal advice to ensure any proposed agreement is enforceable, especially where an overseas jurisdiction is involved.

For more information on making child arrangements, visit gov.uk.

For help with making a parenting plan, visit our free parenting plan service.

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