Relocation – what happens when guardians disagree?
If you are separated and have children and you want to move with them outside the area you currently live in, this is called relocation. Deciding where a child lives is a guardianship issue which means the guardians must consult and agree when making this decision. Disputes can arise when one parent objects to the proposed relocation, often citing the significant impact on their contact with the child as reason for their objection.
Decisions such as those related to relocation must be made in accordance with the Care of Children Act 2004 (“the Act”). Particular care should be taken to ensure the welfare and best interests of the child are the first and paramount consideration, in accordance with section 4 of the Act.
There are two actions that can be taken to resolve a relocation dispute. You can apply to the Family Court for a guardianship direction and for a parenting order. If you already have a parenting order, you can apply for a variation to this order.
The Court will look at the principles relating to the child’s welfare and best interests as enshrined in the Act. The kinds of principles considered include the safety of the child, continuity in arrangements etc.
The individual circumstances of the child or children affected will be at the heart of the decision. There are a great number of factors that may be considered. For example, the following factors in a proposed location that may enhance the child’s wellbeing include:
- Strong network of extended family support.
- Clear plan of how the relationship with the parent left behind will be continued.
- A parent who is supportive of the children’s relationship with the parent left behind.
Whereas, examples of factors which go against the proposed relocation may include:
- Negative/hostile attitude to the other parent.
- Children already well settled in the status quo.
- Heavy burden of travel.
- The attitude that you will leave either way i.e. without the children.
It is important to take a child-centric approach, making decisions that are in the best interest of the children. Relocation may or may not be harmful depending on a combination of risk and protective factors. It is important to consider all these different factors when making a proposal of relocation.
It can also be helpful to ‘reality test’ what is being proposed. This involves questioning whether what is being proposed is realistic. For example, proposing that a very young child travels a long distance weekly would be unlikely to work in reality. What may be more appropriate is daily online contact and monthly visits.
A big move can be stressful and overwhelming for children, but can also present exciting opportunities. What is key, is thinking about your children and deciding what is genuinely best for them.
If you have any questions about relocation or guardianship issues generally, please do not hesitate to reach out to our family law team at Schnauer and Co.
By Anna Graham