There are many reasons a parent might want to take their child abroad for an extended period, or even indefinitely.
If it’s done amicably, and with the right arrangements, there shouldn’t be a problem. But if the process isn’t given enough thought or is done out of malice, there could be serious consequences.
Rachel Bloxwich, an Associate in the Family team at FBC Manby Bowdler, has this advice:
Living arrangements settled outside court require a lot of co-operation between the parents. Naturally, this is tough to achieve if one parent wants to move abroad with the child.
There are currently no major barriers on movement between the UK and the EU, so it should be easy to maintain contact but with Brexit imminent, restrictions on both residency and free movement may change dramatically.
If you’re moving abroad within the EU and want to take a child with you, or if you’re the one being left behind in the UK, you need to know your rights.
If you have parental responsibility for your children you have a legal right to contribute to decisions that impact your children including whether your child moves abroad or stays in the UK with you.
Mothers have parental responsibility by default. Fathers only automatically gain these rights if they’re married to the mother. Unmarried fathers can acquire these rights if their child was born after 1st December 2003, as long as he is named on the birth certificate.
If your child was born before 1st December 2003, and you’re not married to the mother, parental responsibility isn’t automatic unless granted by a court or you have a formal agreement with the child's mother.
If you have parental responsibility your ex can’t take your children out of the country to live abroad legally unless you give permission.
If you’re happy with a child moving abroad it’s wise to get a UK court order highlighting the terms of the agreement including the amount of contact. Always get a "mirror" order from the EU country the child is moving to as the laws set in that country will deal with all issues of custody.
If you don’t want your child to move abroad, your ex-partner needs to apply to the court for an order for permission to relocate. The welfare of the child is the Court’s priority in these circumstances.
Sometimes children are taken abroad without permission from the other parent. If this happens, make sure you hire a solicitor who specialises in child abduction and make an application to the court as quickly as you can.
Outside the EU, things get more complicated. You can come to an arrangement (in writing) or obtain a Court order but it depends on the individual laws of the country your children are now living in as to whether any order is enforceable or a mirror order can be obtained.
If your ex-partner is planning to take your children abroad, speak to a family law specialist as soon as you can.
If you would like any help or advice on family or child law matters, Rachel can be contacted on 01902 392454 or firstname.lastname@example.org.