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Co-parenting after separation can be difficult, particularly when it comes to making important life decisions. One such challenge may arise if one parent wishes to relocate with the child/children to another location within England and Wales.

The process

The parent wishing to relocate with the child/children will need to obtain the consent of the other parent (providing they have parental responsibility), otherwise it will be necessary to obtain an order from the court granting them permission to relocate.

In the first instance, it is advisable to seek the consent of the other parent. To do this, it is helpful to provide a clear plan setting out the proposed arrangements including details of where the child/children will be living, the proposed school they will attend and how future contact between the other parent and child/children will be facilitated in the future. If this is agreed, the relocation can proceed with little difficulty although it is always advisable to obtain consent in writing.

However, if this is not agreed, an application to the court for a specific issue order may need to be made. It is preferable to avoid court proceedings where possible, but sometimes this will be unavoidable because an agreement cannot be reached and the issue will therefore need to be determined by the court.

What factors will the court consider when making a decision?

If an application to the court is made, the court’s decision will be based on the welfare of the child/children. This includes the following:

  • the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child/children concerned (considered in the light of their age and understanding);
  • their physical, emotional and educational needs;
  • the likely effect on the child/children of any change in their circumstances;
  • their age, sex, background and any characteristics of theirs which the court considers relevant;
  • any harm which they have suffered or are at risk of suffering;
  • how capable each of the parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child/children’s needs.
  • The range of powers available to the court under the Children Act 1989 in the proceedings in question.

The court will consider what is in the child/children’s best interests. The parent applying for the order would need to demonstrate to the court how the relocation would benefit the child/children and how any instability and unsettlement caused by the relocation could be effectively managed to minimise any disruption.

What can be done if a parent decides to relocate with a child/children without the consent of the other parent or a court order?

If a parent decides to relocate with a child/children without the consent of the other parent or a court order, it is possible for the other parent to apply for a prohibited steps order preventing the parent from moving with the child/children. If a parent has unilaterally relocated with the child/children, without the other parent’s consent or permission of the court, it is possible for the left-behind parent to make an application to the court requiring the parent who has moved to return to the area from where they left to enable the court to decide whether such a relocation is in the child’s/children’s best interests.


For further advice on the issue of internal relocation, please contact the Family Department.