Relocating abroad – can my child and I leave the country without the consent of the other parent?

The world is opening back up after being in lockdown and with that comes the easing of travel restrictions. Travelling between countries is becoming more regular and therefore the relocation of families is on the rise again.  

For many parents following a separation the option of relocating to another country or ‘returning’ to their home country is something they may consider. In other cases, a move is required due to an employment opportunity. The difficulty arises when a parent wishes to relocate to another country with their child, but the other parent may not be able to move or may not want to.  

To move abroad from England and Wales a parent requires consent from the other parent if the other parent has parental responsibility. A biological mother automatically has parental responsibility upon the birth of the child. The father of a child will obtain parental responsibility, usually if he is either married to the mother when the child is born, if he is named as the father on the birth certificate or has a court order. If no consent is given, the parent wishing to relocate needs a court order to move lawfully. 

Relocation applications are not straightforward and can be lengthy and complex. If the relocation is required in an emergency however, the Court can consider the application on an urgent basis, but this is not common.  

Here are some do’s and don’ts that you should think about if you are considering relocating to another country with your child:  



     1. Is the move in your child’s best interests?  

The Court will be primarily concerned with whether relocating to another country is best for the child. They will not permit a relocation if the move only pleases your interests. The welfare of the child is the Court’s paramount consideration. If you firmly believe moving abroad is in your child’s best interests and you have clear reasoning for this, then you may have good prospects of success.  

     2. Seek legal advice urgently.  

Do not wait any longer. The sooner you speak to a solicitor, the better equipped you are to put things in place and start the process. Court proceedings can often take 6-9 months so any more delay will slow down your move. Your solicitor could advise you what else can be done to increase your chances of succeeding.  

     3. Consider your practical arrangements. 

The Court will be interested to know what arrangements you have made/have considered making, how much you know about the country you are going to, your financial situation upon arrival and the education your child will receive in that country. A key consideration is how the relationship will work with the parent who is left behind. How often this will contact take place, where will this take place and how? Is cross country contact even feasible and affordable? You will need to consider the geography of your new country. 

Ultimately, you need to be prepared to paint a realistic picture of your new life once you have moved abroad and consider the logistics going forward. 

     4. Attempt to reach agreement outside of Court.  

If you have instructed a solicitor, they can enter negotiations on your behalf. Consider whether you could attend mediation, show willingness that you are appreciating the position the other parent is in and that you would like to try to ease their concerns. This could be far quicker and easier than contested Court proceedings. 



     1. Do not just leave the country before reaching an agreement or during relocation court proceedings.  

Some parents may feel there is no way out and they need to leave, however, leaving with your child without the consent of the other parent will cause significant complications as you will have ‘abducted’ the child. Not only could this lead to Court proceedings in England but also the country you have relocated in so that the child’s return can be safely secured. This could be extremely detrimental to your relationship with your child; the court’s view of you as a parent; and can ultimately lead to criminal proceedings.  

The Court will not grant any interim court order allowing you to move during the Court proceedings. They will need to ensure that all factors have been considered and will not make a decision before the final hearing.  

     2. Carefully consider key times in your child’s life. 

The Court will have to consider the timing of your move. Will this have a negative impact on your child’s development or education, for example? Do you intend to move whilst your child is about to start their GCSEs? Will a relocation to a new country at this point in his/her life be detrimental to their education? Any disruption to a child’s life will be considered and weigh heavily in the court’s decision making.  

If you are a parent opposing a relocation you should examine whether your ex-partner has considered the above points. You should also consider instructing an expert on the new country’s legal system. The UK has agreements with some countries on returning children to the country they were previously living in, but in other countries it can be very difficult to engage the Court to assist in the return of a child. You will need to understand what the impact will be if the relocation order is granted in case the relocated parent decides not to comply with the Court order. If the new country will do very little to assist your case in this situation, then this will have a big impact on whether the Court will grant the relocation order.  

If you think you may need advice on this matter, please do not hesitate to contact us. We have specialist international solicitors who can assist you at all stages of the process and help reach the best solution for you and your family. 

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