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After a separation or divorce, parents can feel isolated. If the parent originates from another country, this can in turn lead them to consider moving back to the country where they originally came from and back to their immediate family.  But choosing this significantly separate path to your ex-spouse can be complicated when children are involved.

Automatically, both the child’s mother and father have parental responsibility, regardless of where the child mainly resides.

For parents with sole responsibility of their child, where there is no disagreement with the party, there is no problem moving the child abroad. However, for parents with joint responsibility and joint interest in the children, it is essential that they communicate to reach an agreement regarding the possible relocation and on-going arrangements for the child. Ultimately, oral or preferably written consent must be obtained from the party remaining in the country where the child originally resided (often referred to as the “left-behind parent”).

In an ideal world, conversations between parties would be smooth, the relationship amicable and an appropriate agreement reached. However, it is often the case that one parent disputes the idea of their children moving overseas and withholds their consent. The reason is usually the loss of contact with the left-behind parent. This is not fanciful; many studies have shown that without clear practical arrangements being established from the start, contact often falls away quickly.

If the dispute did escalate and was taken to Court, the person seeking to relocate would need to provide legitimate reasons as to why they wanted the child to be taken abroad; and for the parent at risk of being “left-behind”, why the child should stay put. The Court will base its decision on the best interests of the child. The strength of feeling of the parent wanting to “go home” is not necessarily a guide to what is best for the child, although it can be.

To properly understand your legal rights, discuss your situation with a solicitor with knowledge and familiarity with issues regarding relocation, and can advise you of the best way to pursue your case, both for your good and the good of your child.

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