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Brexit Could Lead To Rise In Child Relocation Court Battles

Family lawyers at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth say the number of child relocation disputes could rise if leading businesses leave the UK and relocate to continental Europe following the Brexit vote.

A survey by one leading consultancy indicated up to 20% of financial services roles could be moved from London to other European financial centres. It has been reported that up to 80,000 jobs in investment banking, international payments transactions and trading could be affected, and might be followed by jobs in insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Several banks have also indicated they could move operations out of London following the vote to leave the EU.

There are more than 110,000 divorces each year with about half involving children. Family lawyers at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth say large numbers of jobs moving to Europe will be disruptive for divorced couples who have settled childcare arrangements, and spark disputes over where children should live.

In 2015 almost 300,000 people emigrated from Britain and with many high-flying Britons already moving for work in countries such as Australia, Dubai, Canada and the USA, the potential for child relocation disputes post-Brexit is likely to rise.

Elizabeth Hicks, a specialist family and divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth, said:

“Much has been made of the financial and economic implications of banks leaving the City, but the effects on families are potentially huge. Up to half of marriages end in divorce and if the prediction that up to 80,000 finance jobs could move abroad is correct, it is easy to see how this could lead to an increase in disputes about where children should live. Many people are already moving to other countries for work, especially in places such as Canada, Dubai and Australia which can cause issues for separated families.

“Whether you want to relocate or oppose an application to remove your children there are many issues to consider. The courts will require you to illustrate genuine reasons behind the motivation to move abroad and to outline the housing, childcare, healthcare and education arrangements you will have in place should you be successful.

“If you’re trying to prevent the removal of your children from England and Wales [the UK] you’ll need to demonstrate your current involvement in their upbringing and the long term impact on both you and them should they move abroad. On top of this you’ll have to be able to scrutinise and criticise your ex’s plans to relocate. Moving a child away from the home and the country they know is not an easy decision to make. Sadly, with the likely impact of Brexit, it seems inevitable that more children face upheaval of this nature.”

Child relocation: how the law works

In England and Wales, a parent wishing to relocate abroad with a child must seek consent from the other parent (or any other person) with parental responsibility. If that consent is withheld, permission must be sought from the Court and the parent who wants to relocate would make an application for ‘leave to remove’. If the other parent does not give their consent and if the courts have not granted permission to relocate with the child, then removing the child permanently from England and Wales is seen as child abduction and likely to be viewed as a criminal offence.

Courts will look at several factors when considering whether a child should relocate abroad:

  • The Court’s primary concern is the welfare of the child.
  • Courts will use the welfare checklist, set out in the Children Act 1989. This includes the child’s wishes and feelings, which are given more weight as the child grows older
  • The relocating parent’s motivation will also come under scrutiny and if there is an indication that the move is to curb contact, the permission of court will not be granted
  • Relocations will need to be well planned and well researched with consideration given to schools and housing
  • The relocating parent will need to show that they have thought about how the child will maintain a relationship with the “left-behind parent”.

Autumn 2016