There is no doubt that the world is becoming a smaller place.  The influx of people coming to Northern Ireland from other countries, coupled with our own ability to move abroad freely, means that more families now have an international dimension to them.  

Love knows no borders and increasingly people are meeting and falling in love online with others from all around the world.  Many people end up bringing their foreign partner to Northern Ireland to live or alternatively moving abroad to start a life and family with their partner elsewhere. 

If a relationship between two parents from different countries breaks down, it is not uncommon for one parent to want to take their child to live abroad with them, either at the time of separation or later on.  They may want to return to live in their country of origin or start afresh somewhere new. This move often results in a separation from the other parent which can understandably cause tension and heartache for families.

I want to relocate with my child – what do I need to do?

If a parent wishes to take a child to live abroad, they will require the permission of anyone who shares Parental Responsibility for that child.  This will normally be the other parent. Where this consent is not given by the other parent, then an application will have to be made to the Court for permission to take a child to live abroad. This type of court application is known as a ‘relocation application’.

If a parent removes a child from Northern Ireland without having either obtained consent or permission from the Court, this is treated as child abduction and urgent steps must be taken by the other to try to secure the return of the child to Northern Ireland immediately.

What does the Court take into account when deciding whether to grant me permission to relocate with my child?  

The main principle which the Court will look at is what is in the best interests of the child. The prospects of successfully obtaining permission to relocate with a child are significantly increased by careful planning and preparation.  The Court will want to know the following:-

  •          What are the reasons for the move?
  •          How will the child be provided for financially?
  •          What are the housing and schooling arrangements for the child?
  •          What are the connections with the proposed new location?

For example, a plan to move to Barbados because the weather is better is less likely to succeed that a plan to move there because the parent has extended family support in Barbados and a job there.

Ultimately, the Court will weigh up all the factors to decide what is best for the child. The child’s wishes and feelings will be taken into account especially where the child is older. The Court will look carefully at any detriment which the child will suffer by not enjoying the same regular contact with the parent who will remain in Northern Ireland. Certainly, the Court would expect very detailed proposals about what contact there should be, including Skype contact and extended holiday contact.  The Court may want to know how this contact will be funded especially if it involves long distance international travel. 

Even with international travel being so much more accessible, a move abroad with a child is an extremely important step to take.  Even where the parent who will remain in Northern Ireland agrees to the move, care should be taken to ensure that the details of the agreement are carefully recorded in a Court Order to include the contact arrangements and that this Order is registered with the Courts in the country where the child is moving to so that the agreement is adhered to and the child’s best interests continue to be met after the child leaves the jurisdiction.

Anyone who is thinking of moving abroad with their child or is concerned about plans to take their child abroad should seek legal advice from an expert in that field to ensure that the interests of the child are protected. 

 

For further advice and assistance on child relocation proceedings, please contact us for a confidential, no obligation consultation on 028 9024 3901 or email us info@fhanna.co.uk