Divorce Visitation Rights when Children Live Abroad

29 May 2018

When relationships break down, there will sometimes be children to consider. When there is, an informal plan or agreement can often be put in place to regulate when each parent will see the child and how the logistics of this will work.

If these matters cannot be agreed then one of the parents may decide to make an application to Court, so that a Judge can decide how contact should continue and where the child should live. The details of this would be set out in what’s called a Child Arrangement Order.

Matters can be complicated further if one of the parents or the child is in another country. What will need to be established at this point is which Court will have jurisdiction to deal with looking after the welfare of the child; the Court in the child’s country of residence or the Court in the other parent’s country of residence.

What if a Parent Wants to Move Abroad with the Child?

Provided that a mother and father both have Parental Responsibility for the child then they should have an equal say in important decisions about their upbringing. This could include things such as their school, their surname and which country they will grow up in. If a parent wishes to move out of England or Wales with the child and the other parent objects, then issues can arise.

At this point either the parent who wishes to take the child overseas will need to make an application to Court for a Judge to allow this to occur, or the objecting parent will need to apply to the Court to prohibit the child from being taken abroad. The Court’s paramount consideration when dealing with these applications will be the child’s wellbeing.

Mirror Orders & Foreign Court Orders

If the Courts in England and Wales are happy for a child to be relocated to another country but wish to ensure that the child still maintains contact with their other parent, a Mirror Order can be considered. This is where the Courts put an Order in place covering contact arrangements, and so do the Courts in the country where the child has relocated to.

This means that the foreign Court will also be aware of the situation and, if necessary, they can enforce the Order in the country where the child now lives.

Child Taken Abroad without the Other Parent’s Consent

If a child is being taken out of England and Wales without the consent of all parents, or those who have Parental Responsibility for the child, then this can be classed as a criminal offence. The police and the UK Boarder Agency can be warned of any such action to ensure that the child is not taken out of the country.

If the child has already left the country then this may be classed as an alleged abduction, in which case it may be possible to have the child returned by the authorities in that country. Whether this is possible will depend on which country the child is in and how long they are being taken there for.

Get Help from a Family Law Solicitor

Our Family Solicitors know that the prospect of your child being taken abroad against your wishes can be terrifying. If you have a child that is being taken abroad without your consent, or if you are a parent that wants to take your child abroad with you, then our Family Solicitors can advise you on the best course of action.

If the child is still in England and Wales, the Courts here are likely to still have jurisdiction. In this instance we can assess the situation quickly and advise on which Court application should be made. This can be enforced to either stop the child from being taken overseas or to regulate contact between both parents and the child.

These matters can be quite complicated and each case unique, as the country and the urgency of the matter are unlikely ever to be the same. However, we can guide you through the steps that will need to be taken and advise on what would be the most appropriate application to make.

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