The UK’s vote to leave the European Union may leave a number of families considering their position in the UK and whether to relocate with their children abroad. According to a recent article in the Financial Times, European countries such as Germany, Hungary and Poland have “seen a surge in citizenship enquiries from British people looking to guarantee their ability to live and work on the continent”. Whilst some may be concerned about their right to work abroad, others may be thinking of a permanent move for various reasons.
Where both parents agree to relocate with their children for example as a family unit, there is no conflict and lawyers need not be involved. However, there are many families where parents are separated or divorced and they continue to share care of their children.
It is important to note that unilateral decisions should not be made about removing a child from the UK. It is a criminal offence for anyone connected with a child under the age of 16 years to remove a child from the UK without appropriate consent.
If you are a mother or father with “parental responsibility” for your child, then your consent is required if your child is to be taken out of the UK. You should seek legal advice if in any doubt as to whether you have parental responsibility for your child.
It is also worth pointing out that if a parent does go ahead and remove a child from the UK to a country that is party to the Hague Convention 1980, then the parent left behind in the UK should be able to seek the immediate return of that child by making an application to the country where the child has been abducted.
Unless the abducting parent can show one of the limited exceptions/defences set out in the Hague Convention 1980, the child is likely to be returned to the UK.
If you wish to relocate abroad with your child and the other parent’s consent is not forthcoming, the proper approach is to make an application to the court for permission to remove that child from the UK ( known as “leave to remove”).
It is worth considering this once it is apparent that consent is not forthcoming as it is likely to take many months before such an application could be resolved by the court and a final Order made.
If on the other hand you are a parent faced with concerns that your child may be removed from the UK, it is important to obtain immediate legal advice. An urgent application can be made for a “Prohibited Steps Order” to prevent the removal of your child from the UK and in appropriate circumstances, an Order can be sought for the child’s and the other parent’s passport to be surrendered to the court.