It can be devastating if your ex or former partner intends to move away and take your children with them. When a family breaks up the parent with whom the children live will sometimes wish to move away and relocate with the children miles away from the other parent. New jobs, new partners, returning to their roots or families or just a wish to make a new start can be the reason and can cause difficulties for the other parent to play a full part in the children’s upbringing.

If the move is within England and Wales there is no need to obtain permission from a judge. However, if the intention is to relocate outside of England and Wales and the other parent has parental responsibility it will be a case of the residential parent needing to apply to the court for permission to remove the child from the jurisdiction of the UK Courts to live permanently overseas.

Thus, a parent for whatever reason can move a child from Penzance to Newcastle, a 6-hour journey of over 400 miles without permission but must apply to the court if they wish to move to Paris which is 280 miles and two and half hours by Eurostar. Travel to Europe is often no more difficult or expensive than travel within the UK and need be no more disruptive to child contact. Conversely, internal relocation within the UK can be more or just as disruptive as when a parent relocates externally out of the country.

If a nonresidential parent believes that a move within the UK and the consequences to contact arrangements with the children are not justified an application must be made to the court for a specific issues, prohibited steps or child arrangements order. This contrasts with the position where a residential parent must apply for permission to remove the children to live outside of the UK. How a court would deal with each different application has until recently not been the same.

In internal cases the law has until recently allowed a parent to relocate with a child unless there are exceptional circumstances to show that they should not be allowed to do so. This has contrasted with the position when permission was sought to remove the child permanently from the UK. Here the courts have approached the issues by considering carefully what is in the best interests of the child in accordance with the welfare principle laid down in the Children Act 1989.

The two positions have now been brought into line. In the recent case of Re C (Internal Relocation) Lady Justice Black decided that the approach of the courts to both internal and external relocation should be an analysis of the best interests of the child. As she said, “In some cases, the fallout from a move can be similar regardless of whether it’s external or internal – say for example, if the move was from London to Northern Ireland, the impact could be just as significant.”

So now, whatever the reasons, and wherever a parent is intending to move with a child it is the welfare of the child that will be the court’s paramount consideration.