Can You Move to Another Part of the Country After Divorce?

Wed 19th Jun 2024

Where there is no court order setting out the child arrangements, technically the parent the children predominantly live with may relocate within England and Wales without the consent of the other parent. However, if the other parent objects, they may make an application to the Court to stop the other parent from moving or to require them to move back to the original area.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ for contact arrangements, often it is simply what works best for each family.

Parents may work different patterns, e.g., long hours, night shifts, or their work may require them to travel, children may attend boarding school and therefore their holiday periods are slightly different, some children may have lots of extra-curricular activities which takes up a lot of their time, and some parents may live several hours apart from another.

In a case heard in 2023, (W v N-F [2023] EWFC 302 (B)) a Mother had unilaterally decided to relocate with the children almost 3 hours away from where both parents had lived. Father said the Mother made this decision without proper planning, and without his knowledge or consent.

The Court had previously put two orders in place. A ‘spends time’ with Order stating that holidays would be shared and the children would see their Father on alternate weekends from after school on Friday to school on Monday, and a ‘lives with’ Order in favour of the Mother. Following the Mother’s move, the Father applied to the Court to vary the Child Arrangements Order, return the children to their school and last place of residence.

The Judge said that the Father could not be expected to travel for 3 hours on Friday evenings after work for contact to start on the Friday night, as was the usual arrangement. However, the Mother was unwilling to travel and stated she could not afford to.

The Judge emphasised that there should be no imbalance between the parents and their voices should be equally heard when making significant decisions about the children, for example where they are to live and attend school.

The Court ordered that the children should live with both parents with the time split being the children stay with their Mother on weekdays and stay with their Father at least Friday to Sunday on alternating weekends. The parents were to share the travel arrangements. Mother was allowed to remain where she had moved to.

Notably the Judge said that should this matter come before him again due to any breaches by the Mother, he would reverse the order so that the children live with the Father on weekdays and with the mother on alternate weekends.

The case illustrates that the existing child arrangements may need to be considered before relocating. For example, if that parent takes the children to school on Monday morning after their weekend, a Court may not support this continuing if the Monday morning journey then became a two hour trip for the child.

Some factors to consider include:

  • When a child is young/pre-school age, the arrangements can have more flexibility than when they have to fit with school times and requirements.
  • What is the time and cost of travel in the proposed move
  • Could a child spend less term time with one parent and more time in the school holidays instead.
  • What alternate methods are there for keeping in touch, e.g., phone calls, video calls, texts, playing online games together,

It is often helpful for any parent considering a move when there are existing arrangements in place to have an early meeting with a solicitor to advise them on options which ideally, they can then discuss with their former partner.

For help and advice on this topic or related issues, please contact Marilyn Bell by calling 01727 798066 or emailing marilyn.bell@salaw.com.

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