The Effects of Covid-19 on Relocating Overseas with your Child after a Separation or Divorce
If you want to relocate from the UK with your child after a separation or divorce then it is best to take children law advice before taking your child out of the UK or changing contact arrangements. The specialist children and family law team at OTS Solicitors can help you. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form to set up a video conference, skype or telephone appointment with one of our specialist children lawyers.
International relocation and Covid-19
Whilst we all hope that in time Covid-19 will become a distant memory for our children, the emotional and financial after effects are likely to be felt by parents for some considerable time. As international divorce and children law solicitors with a global client base, we are already receiving enquiries from parents either wanting to relocate to the UK with their child after a separation or divorce or, more commonly, wanting to leave the UK with their children.
Some of those parents had already planned to relocate and all Covid-19 has done is put their plans on hold. For others, their time in lockdown in the UK has made them rethink priorities and decide that they want something different for themselves and their child.
If a child is habitually resident in the UK then a parent needs:
The other parent’s agreement in writing to the move abroad or
A UK court order given the permission for the child to relocate overseas.
Can an overseas relocation application be made?
Parents are asking if the family court is closed or if it is currently possible to start a court application for permission to take a child overseas. The answer is that the family court remains open for business but most court hearings are conducted remotely or online. Most judges and children law solicitors already had experience of telephone and video hearings prior to the coronavirus. Therefore Covid-19 has just extended the use of technology in the family court.
Accordingly there is no reason why you cannot apply now for permission to take your child overseas to live. That is particularly as many court applications take some months to finalise from date of issue of the court application to the date of the final hearing.
However, it is best to take legal advice before starting an overseas relocation application as the timing of your application could be an important factor in whether or not you secure permission to take your child overseas to live.
Researching your planned move overseas
Prior to starting your court application to relocate overseas, attending family mediation or even discussing your planned move with your ex-partner it is best to do your research on:
The country that you plan to move to
The region and town / village that you have chosen to relocate to
The practicalities of a move overseas
The law on relocation overseas with a child
Any immigration issues associated with a planned move overseas – either in the country that you want to relocate to or in returning to the UK if you or your child isn’t a British citizen and the move overseas does not work out for you.
If you issue a court application to move overseas then you will have to file a short application indicating the order that you would like the court to make and saying where overseas you want to relocate to. The court may then order that you and your ex-partner both file detailed statements setting out your plans and the other parent setting out his or her objections and the reasons why. The court can also order an investigation by a child and family court reporter (CAFCAS) on:
Your child’s wishes and feelings about your planned relocation and/or
Whether the planned relocation is in your child’s best interests.
The CAFCAS officer and court will want to know the precise plans as ultimately a family judge will have to make the decision as to whether to allow relocation based on their assessment, assisted potentially by a CAFCAS report, on what is in the best interests of your child. Success in an overseas relocation application will usually depend on the research and homework that you put into your planned move overseas. That is why it is worth doing all your homework before you even discuss the move with your ex-partner, attend family mediation or start court proceedings.
The detailed plan
Whether it is trying to persuade your ex-partner that your child’s needs would be best met by a new life overseas, raising your reasons in family mediation sessions or during a court application for permission to take your child overseas to live you will need a detailed plan that can only be formulated after:
Discussing your child’s planned move abroad with your ex-partner before you have carried out your research and come up with a plan may backfire as they may think you either aren’t really that serious or that you are a fool to think that everything from house to schooling, your job and contact plans can all be sorted out once you have left the UK.
The effect of Covid-19 on relocation applications
It is undoubtedly the case that if you want your ex-partner or the court to agree to your having permission to take your child overseas to live you will need to address Covid-19 in your plans. That is because all the scientific research seems to be indicating that until there is a vaccine further Covid-19 outbreaks may flare up again. If you don’t research and address that concern the likelihood is that your ex-partner will do so.
The Covid-19 issue is an important one because a court will only normally agree to the making of an order giving a parent permission to relocate their child overseas if there is a clear and credible plan for regular contact with the other parent. In the past it was easy to say the planned overseas destination was ‘’only a three hour plane journey away’’ but Covid-19 has demonstrated that international travel isn’t always that easy or safe.
Whilst it remains possible to travel to and from the UK to many countries the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have advised that only ‘‘essential travel’’ takes place during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. With fears of further surges in coronavirus cases many parents will worry that however committed you may be to regular contact taking place with the other parent it may simply not be possible if countries chose to close their borders or alternatively it may not be safe with aeroplane air conditioning systems and implementing social distancing measures.
You may be able to address any Covid-19 concerns head on by:
Addressing the number of cases of Covid-19 in the country that you plan to move to in comparison to the number of cases in the UK. Whilst future outbreaks may not follow the same pattern it can help to show that your chosen country had a relatively good record in planning for and handling the coronavirus crisis
Researching the health facilities in your chosen country and if there is no National Health Service you will need to research and calculate the anticipated cost of medical care and health insurance
Looking into why your chosen country may be healthier for you or your child. For example, if one of you is asthmatic and there is less air pollution or one of you has underlying health conditions and there is a centre of excellence for the treatment of that condition
How contact could be managed if international travel was not an option. For example, use of skype, Face-time, video camera and social media. You could also question whether being overseas during a future Covid-19 outbreak would be that much different to the travel difficulties encountered if your ex-partner remained living in London and you relocated with your child to rural Cornwall with its lack of airports and motorways.
Overseas relocation applications and your plans
When you are looking at relocating overseas it isn’t of course all about Covid-19 and health and travel issues but children solicitors say it is best to think about and address any positive aspects of the overseas country (for example, better coronavirus health statistics ) and any disadvantages (such as travel or the costs of private health insurance). However, as your planned move overseas isn’t all about Covid-19 you will also need to address:
Why you want to move to your chosen country. The reason may be obvious if it is your country of origin and you still have family living there but there may be other factors making you contemplate moving overseas, such as moving for a new job or to be with your new partner
Why have you chosen a particular village or town – you may have factored in how close the place is to your family, friends who already live in the area, your new job , or its proximity to the airport or to an English speaking school
Where are you planning to live – are the plans realistic if it is an expensive area to rent or buy
If you don’t already have a job overseas what are your prospects of getting a job?
What are the schools like? How easy will it be to secure a school placement? Will there be any language or school curriculum issues that will be hard for your child to overcome?
How will contact with the other parent be maintained? These plans need to include direct contact and indirect, such as skype
How will your child maintain relationships with important other people such as grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts and school friends?
Are there any immigration issues if you leave the UK and you or your child decide that you want to return to the UK? If you or your child isn’t a British citizen would you need a visa to re-enter the UK?
It is best to plan and research your move abroad with your child so that you have answers to all of the above questions and can present a coherent well thought out plan that has already been reality tested by you and your children law solicitor to try and ensure, with or without the effects of Covid-19, that you can achieve your goal of moving overseas with your child. Through doing your early homework and research both your ex-partner and any family law judge will realise how carefully you have thought through the planned move and why you think it is in your child’s best interests to relocate overseas, notwithstanding the inevitable impact that this may have on the type of contact and relationship that your child and their other parent can enjoy in future.
If you have questions about taking your child to live overseas or are worried about the timing of an application for permission to take your child overseas to live then the children and family law team of specialist children law lawyers at OTS Solicitors are here to help you. The team can answer all your children law questions. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form so we can set up a skype, video conference or telephone appointment for you.