The summer holidays encourage many of us to travel abroad, find a getaway and soak up the sun for a week or two with the family. But for some the trip abroad is for much longer and the consequences are not just sunburn.
Two recent telephone calls to my office in Bath and Bristol highlight the impact that an intended permanent move abroad can have on a separating or divorced family.
The first is from a divorced father – “My ex-wife wishes to move to the Irish Republic taking our 10 year old daughter with her. She has accepted a new job and plans to leave the UK before the next school term begins. She has said that I can visit our daughter once a month and she could also visit me once a month. I cannot agree to this as my daughter is only just getting to grips with our divorce. We have a very strong bond and I promised that I would never leave her and would do all I could to live near her….. ”
Another call came from a Norwegian woman married to an Englishman for the past 5 years. Having always said that she wanted their two children aged 4 & 2 to grow up in Norway, she thought they had an understanding about moving to Norway. But “…he now says that he never said he would agree to a move to Norway only that he would seriously consider it! …. I am NOT happy about this. I want to move back to Norway with our children… ”
Two heart-rending cases with possible drastic implications for both families. It is this that lies at the heart of the court’s dilemma when faced with determining who should go and who should stay.
The stark reality more often is that whatever happens, someone is going to suffer emotionally. How then do the courts decide these cases?
A very useful review of recent law governing the relocation of children abroad and within the UK is provided by Jacqui Gilliatt, a barrister at the Chambers of 4, Brick Court, in London. In her article entitled “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane, Don’t Know When I’ll Be Back Again: Can I Take The Children With Me?” first published in Family Law Week – Jacqui examines the law on relocating children to other countries and how the courts have been approaching such cases. There is also advice on
the approach that both the resident and non-resident parent should take in pursuing or defending such cases.
I helped the non-resident father from Bristol to secure contact conditions with his 10 year old daughter that worked for them, the mother and wider family, with undertakings etc to maximise contact. Funds were spent on modern technology, web-cams, Skype, Ryanair and ensuring contact took place and not on litigation. The Norwegian mother and her husband are talking through their issues with a Family Therapist in Bath