When parents separate, it’s not uncommon for one of them to want to move away from the area where they resided with the other. In some cases, this may involve moving the child(ren) of the family to another country, which can naturally lead to issues.
In a recent case, which involves a mother who wished to relocate to the Republic of Slovakia following a relationship breakdown with her British/Algerian partner, the Family Division ruled that despite the wishes of the child’s father, the proposed relocation of a child would provide the child’s physical, educational, and developmental, needs, and was allowed to go ahead.
No disproportionate interference
The court decided that there would be ‘no disproportionate interference’ with the rights of either parent under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, whether it granted or refused the permission for the mother to take the child abroad. It was agreed that the mother would return to Slovakia with the child, and that contact with the father could carry on as usual until the move. After that, contact would continue under new arrangements.
The child in this case was under the age of two, and the issue was complicated by allegations of abuse made by both parties. The father also claimed that the mother had unlawfully retained their daughter in Slovakia in late 2019. The father applied for an order for her summary return and the child was returned to England.
Evidence in favour of the relocation of a child
The father’s evidence was considered to have been substantially dishonest, presenting a case against his ex-partner that attempted to portray her as an aggressive, unstable and violent woman suffering from severe depression, and who had attempted suicide. He also claimed that she had shaken their daughter and threatened to kill her. Those allegations were rejected.
It was decided that the child was at more risk from her father’s abuse of her mother, and that any contact could exacerbate the conflict between the parties, as well as giving the father a chance to exercise further control over the mother.
The judge’s decision
The mother’s proposal for relocation was thought to be beneficial to the child; as she had been her daughter’s primary carer, it was agreed that a strong and healthy mother-daughter relationship was vital for meeting her physical and emotional needs, and relocation would be able to support this. It followed that the child should live with her mother and be allowed to return to Slovakia.
It was agreed that she should also have contact with her father as per the mother’s proposals. It was also suggested that further contact could be agreed in the future, for example for holidays. The only qualification the court made was that, if the mother decided to relocate quickly, then in the current pandemic it might be appropriate for father and daughter to have contact for longer than a weekend but every two months until travel restrictions were lifted.
It was decided that there was no need for any supervision of contact, although there needed to be provisions in place that stopped the father taking the child out of the court’s jurisdiction while he was caring for her. The court also ordered that the parents must share information about their daughter’s health, education and welfare, and that she should have regular indirect contact with her father.
If you have any questions about whether you can or can’t relocate with your child after a separation, or if you need friendly family law advice, please contact Vanessa at Gillbanks Family Law.