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How Far Can a Parent Move with Joint Custody?

Following the breakdown of a relationship, it can feel like life is changing in a lot of ways. It is often incredibly difficult for all parties, especially when there are children involved. 

One of the most common issues faced during separation is the relocation of a parent, where one parent wishes to move away with the children. Not only is this emotionally challenging, but also legally complicated.

Whether you wish to move or your ex is deciding to move with the children, it is important to understand your rights and responsibilities. Do you need permission to move with joint custody in the UK? How far can a parent move? And can an ex move away with your child? 

We cover the most frequently asked topics in parent relocation and child law to help you reach your decision.

What makes relocation cases so difficult? 

After a divorce, either parent may decide to relocate with the children. One issue that makes this difficult is that compromise is hardly ever an option. One parent either relocates or they do not, and there is little choice in between.

If one parent moves across the country with the children, then the remaining parent is left with few options. 

This means that visitation arrangements become increasingly complex. When living nearby, these arrangements are usually fairly easily made. But when one parent moves away and takes the children with them, it becomes a huge change in terms of the relationship. 


Do I need permission to move somewhere else in the UK?

In the UK, there is no legal requirement to obtain consent to move a child anywhere within the country, as long as you have parental responsibility. There is therefore no need to obtain legal permission from the child’s other parent.

There is a possibility that the other parent could obtain a court order to stop you from moving until an investigation has taken place. So if you are thinking of moving elsewhere in the UK it is always best to talk to the other parent about your intentions and seek independent legal advice from a specialist solicitor as early on as possible. 

The court will always consider the welfare of the child and the child’s best interests when they are looking at cases of relocation.

The attorneys of Austin Kemp are experts in the areas of child and family law. We can help you navigate through these tough times. 


Relocating with a child after divorce in the UK

There may be no legal requirement to obtain formal consent from the other parent when moving away with children, although, there are possible legal complexities involved depending on the child arrangements that have been ordered by the courts.

Relocation can also be hugely traumatising, disruptive, and upsetting for all children involved. You can avoid having this happen by keeping the lines of communication open and honest as much as possible. The best approach is to try to discuss this with the other parent first ,and reach an agreement before any plans are set into motion.

The issue of relocation can be taken to court in cases where the remaining parent commences proceedings against the parent who is moving away. The remaining parent may seek to prevent the relocation by:

  • Applying for a Prohibited Steps Order to stop a parent from moving away with the child. 
  • Applying for a Child Arrangements Order that determines where the child should live.
  • Enforcing an existing Child Arrangements Order that details the living arrangements of the child.


If a parent moves without informing the other parent at all, the court can also issue an order to force the return of your child. 

If you are faced with a situation where your child has been taken, you can make an application to the court for:

  • Collection orders, wardship or location
  • Third-party disclosure orders 
  • Any orders which will provide you with assistance in recovering your child
  • Police involvement for any criminal offences


When a partner obtains a child arrangement order

If the remaining partner is successful in obtaining a child arrangement order, specifically one that determines the child’s residence, then this parent will have more say in where the child lives.

This is very carefully considered in court, as ordering a restriction on where somebody can live is understood as sometimes counteractive to the order’s intention of granting separated parents greater freedom to see their children. 

Ultimately, the court will consider the child’s best interests above all else in cases of parent relocation.

In cases where the relocating parent has an existing Child Arrangement Order in place that gives residence in their favour, it is unlikely that the court will order any restrictions on where the relocation parent decides to move within the UK. This is unless the child’s welfare would be affected by the move.


International Relocation

If a parent wishes to leave the UK and take the child with them to live in a different country, then they are first required to obtain agreement from any other person who has parental responsibility, typically this means the other parent.

If you are unable to obtain agreement from the other parent, you will then have to apply to the court for permission and file an application called “permission to remove from the jurisdiction.”

The court ultimately acts in the best interest of your child. It is the court’s job to consider the motives for moving abroad as well as the lasting effects on the parent who is left behind. One of the main things the court has to determine is that you are not taking your child abroad to prevent contact with the other parent. 

Existing cases are showing us that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to be able to obtain permission from the court for an international relocation, as many requirements have to be met.

The court will ask questions such as:

  • The reasons for your move
  • Where you wish to live
  • Health and education
  • Age of child and how they feel about moving
  • A workable plan for contact with the other parent

It is much easier to move your child elsewhere in the UK than it is to relocate them abroad. Unless you are trying to stop the other parent seeing them or there are other extenuating circumstances, then it is unlikely that your move will be stopped.

Austin Kemp’s experienced team of solicitors can advise you if you would like to move your child elsewhere in the UK or you want to stop your partner from doing so.


What are my rights?

Parental rights are given to those who have parental responsibility. Having legal parental responsibility will provide you with more influence over where the child resides. Mothers, married fathers, or partners who are named on the birth certificate are automatically granted parental responsibility. 

Consequently, if a partner is not named on the birth certificate, then it will be more difficult for them to prevent the named partner from moving away. 

Contact Us for Help

Austin Kemp was built from ambitions to grow into one of the most respected law firms around. Today we live this mission every single day, by doing our best to be the best.

Don’t go one through one of the most challenging experiences of your life alone. We can help you through your relocation questions and concerns 

You can contact us online. Or if you wish via email at or by telephone 0333 311 0925

We promise to deliver quality legal services.

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