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What happens when a parent wishes to move house within the UK?

Key principles that determine a relocation application

As with all applications in relation to children the outcome of a relocation application will be based on the welfare of the child in accordance with s1 of the Children Act 1989 and having particular regard to the welfare checklist set out in s3 of that Act.

What used to be known as a contact order or a residence order is now known as a “Child Arrangements Order”. A CAO naming the applicant as the person with whom the child lives does not necessarily allow an internal relocation. Similarly a CAO naming both parents as persons with whom the child lives or a shared care arrangement does not necessarily prevent an internal relocation.

The basic principle is that a parent can live where they like in the UK with the children that live with them.

The court is unlikely to prevent a parent from choosing where they live within the UK unless the child's welfare requires it. This is not because there is a rule that such a move can only be prevented in exceptional cases; it is because the analysis of the welfare of the child and the welfare checklist referred to above, which takes into account the impact on the parent wishing to move and the consequential impact on the child, usually leads to that conclusion.

The court considers the interests of the child and parents. If it is not possible to accommodate everyone's wishes, the case of Re C (Internal Relocation) [2015] EWCA Civ 1305 confirms that the best interests of the child dictate the outcome.


What steps should the Applicant take?

Within an application to court a full witness statement will be required. If properly prepared the statement should:

   Include a full history of the parties' relationship.

   Explain the proposed move, including practicalities such as where the applicant and the child will live. Provide information about the cost of relocation, how this will be funded and exhibit photographs of the proposed accommodation.

   Show the research undertaken into schools and give a description of the new school selected. Explain why it is a suitable school for the child to attend. Exhibit brochures, term dates, photographs and compare it to the child's current school. Confirm whether the applicant and child have visited the school and whether a place has been secured.

   Give details about the motivation for the move. If the move is motivated by new employment, give details about income and benefits.

   Explain what will happen to the child's contact with the respondent following relocation and give detailed proposals for direct and indirect contact. Confirm how long travel will take, the cost of travel and if possible, the applicant should offer to meet all or part of these costs. Set out proposed arrangements for telephone contact, Skype or FaceTime and email contact.

   Confirm childcare arrangements and how these will be dealt with in comparison with existing arrangements. Clarify how emergencies may be dealt with. If a child has special needs confirm how they will be handled in particular if they may be handled better in the new location.

   Provide details of any new partner including an explanation of why they will not relocate without the applicant.

   Outline what the effect of a refusal will be. For example, the emotional effect of any refusal may involve disclosure of the applicant's medical records if they have a history of depression or ill health.

What steps should the Respondent take if opposing an application?

A full witness statement will be required and should give reasonably expressed but credible reasons for opposing the application including:

   A full history of the parties' relationship.

   An examination of the practical side of the proposal to relocate and the effect on the child's contact with the respondent. Compare the total amount of contact time and comment on flexibility, working arrangements and practicalities. The case of J v S [2010] EWHC 2098 confirms that the quality of contact and its frequency is the most important issue.

   The costs of travel to and from contact, who will fund these and who will undertake the journeys.

   An account of the history and ease of contact particularly if there have been difficulties.

   An explanation of the motivation for opposing the application and what is understood to be the applicant's motivation for making the application.

   Analysis of whether the cost of relocation and accommodation is affordable. Are there ongoing financial remedy proceedings that need to be taken into account?

   An assessment of the proposed new school and whether the child's existing school is better. Exhibit Ofsted reports and ask whether the applicant and child have visited the proposed new school. If possible the respondent should visit the new school and be in a position to compare it with the existing school

   An assessment of the proposed childcare arrangements. Query who will be responsible for caring for the child when the applicant is unable to do so. Is this another opportunity for the respondent to see the children?

   Information about the child's health care and special needs, if any and include an assessment of how these will be met in comparison to existing arrangements.

   An explanation of the emotional effect of allowing the move. This may involve the disclosure of medical records if the respondent has a history of depression or other medical illness.

Applications to relocate are invariably highly emotionally charged but a reasonable approach and objectivity are required in order to present the case well and to maximise prospects of success. We have enormous experience of all sorts of applications in relation to children and are able to offer a full menu of services from one-off advice to full preparation and representation.


Please contact Joanna Gardner at or Ian Stirzaker at for further details.


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Added: 18 Jan 2016 17:35

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