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International Child Law
If you or your partner want to take your child to a different country whether on holiday or to live, we can provide rapid, specialist advice. In the event of an abduction or other emergency, we can help you take effective steps to protect your children.
Our international child law solicitors have vast, real-world experience in advising families on understanding and tackling the differences between laws and expectations in the UK and those in a foreign country, including in an emergency.
How JMW Can Help
There are many different aspects to the law on the international movement of children to and from England and Wales, involving the laws of this country, international and European law. A parent may wish to return to their home country with their child, possibly against the other parent's wishes. Alternatively, after the breakup of a relationship, a parent may wish to seek a new life overseas with their children, perhaps with a new partner and their family.
Even where there is no obvious conflict between separated parents, it can be vital to ensure that arrangements for children to remain in contact with a 'left-behind' parent and extended family have a solid legal foundation that will be recognised by the legal systems of all relevant countries.
In many cases, such issues can be resolved through negotiation and/or non-court dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or arbitration. We are committed to pursuing child-focused solutions. It is not always feasible to resolve such issues without the intervention of the courts and there will be situations where an application becomes necessary.
We have a depth and breadth of experience of cases involving the relocation of children abroad, disputed international travel with children and international contact disputes. We understand the need for meticulous preparation to give your case the best possible chance of success.
How do I ensure that the arrangements with my children are adhered to when they move abroad?
We are experienced at negotiating international child contact arrangements and putting in place court orders, both in England and Wales and abroad, to ensure that contact plans are adhered to. A court order can be put in place by agreement between you and your former partner. Just because the court is involved does not necessarily mean that you are in conflict and you can work together to get the court to ratify an agreed arrangement.
Depending on which other country is involved, it is often possible to register an English/Welsh court order in their courts, which will improve your ability to take action in the event that any contact arrangements are not being fully implemented.
Not all countries have as strong a legal link with this country as others but an increasing number of nations are signing up to international conventions on family law to make the cross-border enforcement of child arrangements orders more feasible.
Can I prevent a former partner from moving abroad with our children?
Legally, your ex cannot remove the children from the country without your permission or that of the court. We would need to undertake a careful analysis of your ex's plans for the move before deciding whether or not you had a strong case to oppose any application to the court. Ultimately, the court will look at whether the move is in the child or children’s best interests or not.
If you are worried that your ex may take the children without permission, you need to take urgent legal advice to see if there are any legal and practical steps you can and should take to secure the situation.
I am worried that my former partner is going to take our children abroad against my wishes. What can I do?
Depending on how real and imminent the threat is, you may need to inform the police and apply to the court on an emergency basis to get a prohibited steps order or a port alert to prevent departure. There are other orders than can be made to support this aim, including
restrictions on the issuing of new passports and an order that airports and seaports be alerted that your children are at risk of abduction.
As a first step, you should ensure that your children's passports are stored somewhere secure. Whatever happens, you should not delay in taking legal advice as it is far easier to stop children from leaving the country than it is to secure their return after they have gone.
What can I do if my former partner will not let me move back to my home country with our children?
As things stand, you cannot take your children to another country without the permission of everyone else who holds parental responsibility or failing that, the permission of the court. Without those permissions, you could be committing a criminal offence of child abduction if you were to go regardless.
Our first task would be to consider with you in detail how you propose the move would work in terms of your employment, support networks, the children's education and how practically they are going to continue to have contact with the other parent.
If it is not possible to persuade the other parent to agree to a way forward that involves you and the children moving, then we would consider how strong your case would be if you decided to apply to the court for permission.
If you did decide to apply to the court, we would need to provide a detailed explanation of your plans and demonstrate to the court that you have robust and practical proposals to enable the children to continue to see your former partner. The court would then consider carefully whether it is in the children's best interests to give you permission to relocate with them.