Can a Single Parent Move Abroad?

Moving abroad will be a significant, life-changing decision, that will feature excitement, opportunities, and also some challenges. You will need to undertake careful planning and consideration, especially if you are moving abroad as a single parent with your child.

In this blog, we look into what’s involved when you want to move abroad with your child as a single parent, the legal requirements and the processes you can take to relocate overseas whilst keeping your child’s best interests at heart.

Can I move abroad with my children as a single parent?

You can only take a child under 16 years of age overseas with the written consent of everyone who has parental responsibility for that child. The birth mother will typically automatically have parental responsibility, as will the other parent who is named on the child’s birth certificate.

If you don’t get written permission from the other parent/all people with parental responsibility and you still take your child abroad, you could be taken to court.

If you are intent on moving abroad with your child and the other parent won’t give their permission, you can try to obtain permission from the court instead. In some cases, you may be able to undertake mediation with a third party before going to court. However, if an agreement can’t be reached, you will have to take it to the court to decide.

What do I need to do to move abroad with my children as a single parent?

If you have discussed taking your child abroad with the other parent, and they are not willing to give their permission, you can make an application to court for permission. Before you do this, it’s best to deliberate various factors.

Going to court can be a challenging and emotional process, so you may want to first consider how the court may view your application. The court will put the child’s welfare as the paramount deciding factor, so you should think about whether it really is in the best interests of the child to move them abroad. This will include whether the child themselves wants to move abroad, as well as if their health, wellbeing and educational needs will all be sufficiently met in the country you wish to move to.

If you decide that it definitely is in the child’s best interest to move abroad, you should then seek legal advice. A good family lawyer will be able to determine a strategy to help make your application successful and help you to put together a plan so you can move abroad with your child.

Your plan should include a suitable timeline for moving, factoring in your child’s schooling to reduce the impact on their education. You will also need to establish that you have the required financial backing for the move, including having money for the relocation itself, as well as sufficient funding for after you move.

You should also plan how you intend to maintain your child’s relationship with their other parent and wider family. This will show the court that you have considered the other parent’s needs as well as the child’s desire to keep a relationship with their family members.

My ex wants to move abroad with my child – what can I do?

The possibility of your child moving abroad without you can be difficult and emotional. However, before you take things further, you should first consider whether it may be in the best interests of the child for them to move abroad. Will they be able to access better educational opportunities, and in the future, better career prospects?

You should also consider whether you may be able to maintain a close relationship with the child even if they do move abroad. If they are moving to a country close by, you may be able to visit frequently, or they may be able to visit you.

If you decide that you don’t think it’s in the child’s best interest to move abroad, you should seek legal advice. The other parent won’t be able to take the child abroad without your permission, but they may escalate the process to court. If that happens, you should ensure you have a detailed case to put forward explaining why it would be better for the child to remain in this country.

If you are concerned that the other parent may take your child abroad without your permission, you can apply for an urgent court application. In some cases, you may be able to apply to have your child’s passport given to you, so they won’t be able to travel internationally.

What happens if the case goes to court?

If the parents cannot reach an agreement, the parent who wishes to take the child abroad can make a relocation application with the court. The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) will then carry out safeguarding and welfare checks on the child and report back to the court during the first hearing. The parents will both be able to attend this first hearing, being represented by barristers.

If no agreement can be reached at this first hearing, there will be a second, final hearing. At the final hearing, the judge will make the decision on whether or not the parent can move abroad with the child. Both parents, as well as any other relevant parties, will be able to submit witness statements ahead of the final hearing. In these statements, the parents can put forward their case and their reasons for wanting or not wanting the child to move abroad.

The CAFCASS or an independent social worker may also speak to the child directly ahead of the final hearing to get their thoughts and opinions on the matter. The CAFCASS or social worker will also speak to each parent. They’ll then put together a welfare report along with their recommendation to refuse or accept the application.

During the final hearing, the court will have the report and any written statements and will be able to hear any oral statements from relevant parties, if required. The final hearing can last for a few days, depending on how much evidence is required to be seen. Once the hearing is complete, the judge will make the final decision and either grant permission for the child to move abroad, or refuse the application.

What happens if my child is allowed to move abroad?

If your child is allowed to move abroad, both parents will still have the same parental responsibility. So, the parent who is moving with the child will still have to involve the other parent in important decisions that relate to the child.

The only area where things might change is with child maintenance payments. The parent who moves abroad cannot request the Child Maintenance Service in the UK to enforce payments to be made. However, they may be able to apply for a child maintenance order in the country they are moving to.

The UK has a Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders REMO agreement with a number of countries, a list of which can be found on the government website. Courts in these countries will be able to enforce child maintenance decisions made in UK courts. This will only apply to existing, legally binding arrangements made in the UK.

Are you moving abroad?

If you’re moving abroad with your child, you can help protect their health with international medical insurance. Cover from Expatriate Group will mean you can access quality private healthcare facilities and professionals, giving you peace of mind whilst you’re abroad.

Get a quoteview our plans, or contact us for more information.

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