Brexit: how a change in career path - and location - may impact family life

Britain is now in the midst of negotiations to exit the EU. It is trite to say that the ramifications will be felt far and wide, not the least for…

Britain is now in the midst of negotiations to exit the EU. It is trite to say that the ramifications will be felt far and wide, not the least for parents who have a sense of uncertainty as to their on-going career prospects within the UK. For separated parents, the possibility of being asked to move abroad, or simply seeing more secure career prospects overseas, is fraught with complexity. If a child’s parents end up living in two different countries, it is going to have a substantial impact on their upbringing.

If one parent is looking to move overseas and intending that the children move with them, then they will need the other parent’s agreement to make the move, or alternatively an order from the court. A parent whose work, and therefore livelihood, is being relocated overseas will have a strong incentive to make an application to the court for permission to remove the children from the jurisdiction. If there is sufficient time, however, trying to reach a collaborative or mediated agreement would be preferable to court. Such an approach would give the other parent time to adjust to the idea and the opportunity to contribute to a plan. Through either of these processes, it would properly be a joint decision and one therefore most likely to benefit the children moving forward.

If the parents cannot reach their own agreement, the court will assess the strength of the application for the children to move abroad. This will not only be on the basis that the opportunity allows for them to provide financially for the children but will also assess the extent to which appropriate housing and schools have been identified for the children, whether potential language and cultural differences have been taken into consideration, what the children’s own wishes and feelings are about a move, what the alternatives for the children would be if the application was refused and what plans are in place for the children to continue to maintain a strong relationship with the parent remaining behind.

Advice to anyone contemplating such a move, who anticipates resistance from the other parent, should be to start researching the resources available for the children in the new location and building up a picture of what their life would be like. As much information as possible can then be provided to the other parent, in advance of any discussion. It would also provide them with the opportunity to do their own research into schools, nurseries and neighbourhoods.

Conversely, a parent who thinks their former partner is making decisions about their children’s future without seeking agreement or providing full information about the arrangements, can consider making an application to the court for a prohibited steps order to prevent the children being taken out of the country, either at all or just until proper arrangements have been put in place (including arrangements for when that parent will see the children, advice being sought as to what steps can be taken in the courts of the other country to ensure that that court would enforce an order made in England or Wales, or alternatively whether a ‘mirror’ court order should be made in the country where the children are now to live).

A parent moving abroad for work, whose children will remain with their former partner in the UK, might want to ensure that the other parent will allow the children to travel outside of England and Wales to see their new home. This again is an issue that the courts can consider if the provision of thorough information at outset and an exploration of the issues in mediation, fails to end in agreement.

Relocating to another country to keep a job or progress a career is not insurmountable for a separated parent. There is no reason to rule anything out or narrow one’s options. As with all decisions effecting children, the decision to move would only fail if it were not deemed to be in the best interests of the children. Expert advice from a family law solicitor should be sought at an early stage of the planning/discussion.

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