Relocation, Relocation: high profile judge calls for a review of the law

 High Court judge has called for an urgent review of the way cases are dealt with involving a parent applying to permanently relocate abroad with children, against the wishes of the other parent. His call echoes the views of the Court of Appeal in February this year, that the current law (which has been in force since the 1970s), places too much emphasis on the wishes and feelings of the relocating parent and ignores the harm done to children whose relationship with the parent left behind is much reduced or, in many cases, permanently severed.

The approach of the English Courts differs from most foreign Courts, which are generally less likely to grant such applications. A recent International Declaration on this issue commended a ‘non-presumptive approach’. Calls have been made for an International Convention to establish a uniform approach to these cases. Others have argued such changes could result in an automatic presumption against relocation, and therefore an increased number of child abductions by thwarted parents.

Stevens & Bolton LLP family associate Elen Humphreys commented: “Under current law, priority is given to the detrimental effect of refusing a parent’s request for relocation on the carer’s wellbeing, and the consequential negative effect of this on the child. Such applications frequently succeed unless they are clearly irrational or malicious. It remains to be seen whether the recent declaration will be adopted by the English Courts. What is needed is clear guidance on this issue from the Supreme Court which takes into account how much social attitudes towards shared parenting have changed over the last 40 years.”

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