How Can I Stop My Ex Moving With Our Child Abroad?

When relationships end, families often experience problems adjusting, and one of the most difficult issues that can arise happens when one parent wants to relocate or move abroad with their children, and the other parent does not want this to happen. This article explains the law in this area and looks at what you can do to prevent your ex moving abroad with the children.

Types of order available

The following applications can be made asking the court to resolve a dispute about moving abroad with a child:

Specific issue order

This is an order that decides a specific question that arises, or which might arise, in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility.

Prohibited Steps Order (PSO)

This is an order by the court to stop one parent from exercising their parental responsibility in a way that is not believed to be in the child’s best interests.

Prohibited Steps Order

It is extremely common for parents to disagree about where the child lives or which school they will attend. But if one parent has concerns that the other wishes to relocate overseas and take their child with them without otherwise obtaining permission, the parent can apply to the family court for an order called a prohibited steps order to stop the child being removed from the UK.

When deciding whether to make a prohibited steps order, the child’s welfare is the court’s paramount consideration.

Before applying for a prohibited steps order, the applicant must attend a mediation or MIAM meeting to discuss alternative ways that could help the parents resolve matters without going to court.

If the prohibited steps order is urgent, the court rules allow the applicant to bypass the MIAM requirement and make a PSO without informing the other party. The court will only do this if it is necessary to protect the best interests of the child.

The duration of a prohibited steps order varies between cases. Normally, courts impose a duration they feel serves the best interests of the child, which can range from several months to many years.

Specific Issue Order

Anyone with parental responsibility can make an application for a specific issue order. For those who don’t hold parental responsibility, they may still be able to apply if they obtain the court’s permission to do so.

Where parents cannot make a decision together about an issue relating to a child’s wellbeing or upbringing, the court will consider what is in the child’s best interests and set out their ruling in a specific issue order.

As with a PSO, prior to applying for a specific issue order, the applicant must first attend a MIAM to try to resolve the issue without going to court. The rules around having to attend a MIAM are waived if the application is urgent.

A specific issue order automatically ends when the child reaches 16 years of age unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Is the move in the child’s best interests?

As with any case involving children, their welfare will be the court’s paramount consideration. The court must also be satisfied that making a specific issue order is better for the child than not making any order at all. The court is likely to direct a CAFCASS officer to prepare a report to give a balanced view of the issues and put forward any potential solutions or recommendations. This provides the court with independent intelligence regarding the welfare of the child.

What is the court process?

When a court decides whether a child should move abroad, it must consider what it believes is in the child’s best interests taking into account factors referred to in the “welfare checklist”. This includes things such as the wishes and feelings of the child, the likely effect on them of any changes in circumstances, how capable each parent is of meeting his needs, amongst a raft of other vital considerations.

It cannot be overstated; when a court makes a decision about a child’s welfare, the child’s best interests are the court’s paramount consideration. When deciding whether to make an order for a child to live overseas, it is a fine balancing process as the child’s interests are not paramount, because the court must decide the effect of refusing or granting the application on both parents.

If you are a parent thinking about moving abroad with a child, or a parent facing a relocation application, the best approach is to get specialist legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

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