HM Insights

Relocation of children & Covid 19 – a positive message about future planning

As the possibility of international relocation became more commonplace, separated parents who were contemplating a move, or a proposed move were faced with a difficult conundrum. Should both parents move? Should the parent who would be “left behind” oppose or consent to the proposed move?

The law around relocation of children is considerably more developed than it was 10 years ago, but never has the basic advice to a parent wishing to relocate to “make a plan” been more relevant.

Similarly, for those parents who are fearful that their former partner wishes to relocate, the general advice to give careful thought to what is proposed is more pertinent than ever.

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The current crisis is causing many individuals to question their hopes for the future. Many are considering how best to grasp all that life can offer in a way they may not otherwise have done.

Others feel fearful, the current crisis underlining the importance of family relationships, the current sense of uncertainty exposing fault lines in post separation relationships.

Planning ahead for a post-Coronavirus relocation issue

What if you do wish to explore a move abroad? What if your former partner wishes to relocate, but you do not feel that is the best thing for your children?

Given the worldwide travel restrictions currently in place, and the fact that the Courts are dealing only with urgent cases, it may feel that future planning is pointless. Not so.

Individuals considering a relocation can usefully use this time to create and finesse their plans for the future. By laying the groundwork now, a parent seeking to persuade a parent to consent to a proposed move, or a Court to grant permission in the absence of such consent, will be able to demonstrate that all aspects of their children’s upbringing have been considered and positions adopted after careful research and consideration.

Parents who seek to relocate with children require to demonstrate that the proposed move is in the best interests of their child. In deciding that issue many factors will be considered, including the extent to which the proposed move would impact upon the child’s relationship with the other parent. Advance planning is key to a successful application.

Similarly, parents who are concerned that their former partner may wish to move away can take time to consider their position carefully, exploring all possible permutations with care before adopting a position. Many parents do decide to reach an accommodation, but effective and considerate communication is key to achieving that. If agreement cannot be reached, again, the other parent can use this time to prepare.

Time and energy spent doing the groundwork in advance of intimation of your position is likely to pay dividends in any application for permission to relocate, or any defence to such an application.

Find another way – alternative methods of resolving disputes

Thought and care in communicating with the other parent can deliver positive benefits, too. The rush to Court is not always necessary, or constructive, particularly in cases involving children. The current absence of the Court remedy is in many areas causing parents to re-evaluate how they communicate with each other. It is easier to recognise the importance of constructive communication when the option of having a third party decide is effectively off the table. Additional methods of dispute resolution including mediation and arbitration are coming in to their own, with online services becoming more widely available.

The positive message for parents considering the future of their family unit is that the current crisis does not necessarily mean that future planning need be on hold. This time can be used constructively to plan, research, and gather information.

Get in touch – we're here to help

Amanda Masson is Head of Family Law at Harper Macleod LLP. She has considerable experience of acting for parents in relocation cases. She is Accredited by the Law Society of Scotland in Family Law, Child Law, and Family Mediation. For a confidential discussion please contact Amanda on 0141 227 9394, or via email at [email protected]

Our family law team is made up of experienced family law solicitors around the country. Many of our team are trained in various methods of dispute resolution, including mediation and collaborative practice, and are Accredited by the Law Society of Scotland as specialists in their field. 

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