International Leave to Remove: requesting permission to relocate with your child

There can be lots of different reasons why you might want to move to another country. It could be the chance to embark on a new career, a desire to experience a new culture, enjoy a lifestyle that you can’t get in the UK, return to your country of birth or perhaps to move forward with a new relationship.

While the process of moving to another country can be exciting, there are lots of factors that you need to consider such as employment, taxes, and accommodation and health provisions. However, if you have children then there are other considerations that you need to make and legal advice should always be sought.

To leave the country with your child, you will need approval from the other parent or person who holds Parental Responsibility. If you are in a relationship or married to that person and you are both planning to relocate as a family then this is all quite straight forward. However, if you are separated or divorced then the process may become more complicated as we will explain below.

Understanding International Leave to Remove

Under the Children Act (1989) http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1989/41/contents it is an offence to take a child out of England and Wales without the written consent and permission of any other person with Parental Responsibility.

This means that if you want to take your child abroad for a new life then you will either need permission from the child’s other guardian(s) or else you will need to prove to the court that moving abroad is the best decision with the interests of your child in mind.

Under the current system there is no guidance or provision which deals specifically with relocating a child to another country – known as International Leave to Remove. Instead the court will consider what is best for your child by referencing what is called the welfare checklist.

Even if you are your child’s primary carer you are not automatically guaranteed to be granted permission to take your child out of the country to relocate. However, in most scenarios where it is a primary carer asking for permission, it is usually granted, unless it can be proven to be detrimental to the child’s welfare and to be going against principles set out by the “welfare checklist” of the Children Act (1989).

So what criteria must be met to please the court?

The Welfare Checklist

In cases of this type, the needs of the child in question are paramount.

This means that the court will put the welfare of the child at the forefront of any decision they make, and will consider a broad range of factors such as:

  • Whether parties are able to meet the child’s needs
  • Any potential harm or risk to the child
  • The child’s age, sex and background
  • The needs of the child
  • The effect that moving to another country may have on the child
  • The child’s own wishes and feelings on the matter

How genuine is the application?

To come to a final decision the court needs to be convinced that the application is genuine and is not being made in an effort to try and exclude the other parent or guardian out of their child’s life.

This means that the parent wanting to relocate must be able to show the court that it will be practical for the remaining parent to be able to maintain contact with their child.

If you are moving to a country where there are regular, direct flights or trains from the UK then this may help your case. It may also help if there are airlines which allow children to fly unaccompanied.

If you are moving to a country far away such as New Zealand, America or Australia then it may be more difficult. Direct flights may be harder to book, or nonexistent and the cost can be large.

However, contact could be maintained less frequently and supplemented with telephone or video conversations.

Equally, the parent who is opposing the relocation must also hold genuine concerns and not be driven into action by an ulterior motive.

How realistic are the plans?

Your plans for relocation need to be practical and well-researched. This means that you should have well thought out plans prepared. Here are some things that you will need to consider:

  • How will I provide for my needs and the needs of my child?
  • Does my child have medical issues and can they be treated in the destination country?
  • Where will I live?
  • Where will I work?
  • Where will my child go to school?
  • If I am working who will look after my child?
  • Will I have a support network?
  • Will my child have a good quality of life?

It will be easier for you to be granted a decision in your favour if you can prove that you have thought about these questions carefully. For example, if you have accommodation or a new job pre-arranged. Or if you have a school place reserved for your child.

You will need hard evidence of the financial viability of your move and evidence of your accommodation, such as through videos and pictures that you can show the court.

Other factors that you may want to consider include language. Would the child need to learn a new language when you move and would you be able to keep up their English language skills so that they can still communicate with the parent who remains in the UK?

If you are moving to a country where English is not widely spoken then this might be achieved through private study lessons or through joining an international school. The court will also think about the status of the country that you are moving to, considering how parent or child friendly the country is, as well as how safe it may be to live there.

Some other factors which could benefit the applicant

Other circumstances which could assist the applicant in having Leave to Remove granted could include the following:

  • The applicant is the primary carer
  • They can shown that refusal of leave could negatively impact the applicant in such a way that it affects their ability to care for their child
  • The primary carer wishes to return to their country of birth
  • The primary carer has developed a new family structure involving their child – i.e., remarriage

Seeking consent

Removing a child from the country without the explicit written permission from their other parent is classed as child abduction, which is usually a criminal offence.

You must seek consent from the other parent, or person who shares Parental Responsibility. Mothers automatically inherit Parental Responsibility, as do most fathers unless they are not on the child’s birth certificate. Parental Responsibility is also sometimes granted through a Parental Responsibility Agreement, or by court order.

Sometimes it is possible to come to an agreement through mediation with the other parent or person with Parental Responsibility. However, this is not always possible.

If you have plans to relocate with your child then you should seek advice from a family law solicitor as early on in the process as you can. International Leave to Remove cases are notoriously complicated and require a large amount of planning and gathering of evidence in advance.

Our Family Law team at Rollingsons have vast experience across various complex fields of family law and can provide you with a sensitive yet professional service throughout your case. For more information or to arrange an initial consultation, please contact us on 0207 7611 4848.