Child relocation

Moving is always a big decision to make and there are lots of reasons why you might want to relocate following a separation or divorce.

One of the most difficult situations following a separation or divorce is where one parent wants to relocate or needs to move abroad with their children, and the other parent does not want to or can’t move to the same country.

If you are thinking about moving overseas, remember that you can’t simply take your child to live abroad if they live day-to-day in England and Wales and you share parental responsibility with your ex. If you want to move to another country, then you’ll either need your ex's agreement or the court’s permission.   

Moving within England and Wales can cause just as much disruption for a child as a move to a whole different country. It is good common sense to keep everyone informed of your plans and to consult your ex early on so that they can understand the reasons behind your decisions.  


Relocation cases are challenging for everyone involved. Moving a child away from one parent isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly, and the child’s best interests must remain at the centre of all the decision-making. Because of their “lose or win” nature - either the move happens or it doesn’t - these disputes are not only legally complex but can be highly emotional. 

Our lawyers

Speaking to our family lawyers early on is essential as the approach you take from the beginning will be critical to your success. Our specialist children lawyers have a wealth of experience dealing with situations where one parent wants to move away with the children. Some cases our team has been successful in are: 

  • successfully representing a high-profile father where he wanted to relocate to another country with his child. 
  • successfully negotiating a mother's relocation abroad with her child, ensuring the child's relationship with their father was fully supported after the move. 
  • an extremely sensitive case involving domestic abuse and a father facing criminal proceedings for possessing indecent images of children. We obtained an order allowing the mother to relocate within the UK. 

What you need to know

Needing to relocate following a separation or divorce can happen for many reasons:   

  • ​you might want to return to your hometown, city or country  
  • you might want to move to take advantage of a job offer or promotion 
  • you might have a new partner and want to move to progress that relationship 
  • you might want to move to find a better quality of life  

Even if you and your ex can agree that one of you moves away with the children, you must get written agreement from everyone who has parental responsibility for the children. If you don’t you run the risk of the move being seen as child abduction. 

Where possible, you are best to try to come to an agreement together about the move. You could use direct communication, negotiating through solicitors, mediation or collaborative law. Coming to your own agreement also gives the parent who will be left behind time to adjust to the idea and the opportunity to contribute to a plan. A joint decision tailored to your family’s circumstances is likely to be one that benefits your children most moving forward.  

If an agreement is not possible, the parent who wants to move will need the court’s permission. It’s important to remember that the court’s decision may not come quickly. It can take up to a year for disputes like these to be resolved using the court.  

If you are concerned that your child may be taken abroad without your agreement, you can make an urgent application to the court. For example, you can apply for your child’s passport to be given to you if you do not have it or, if you think the other parent may be about to travel soon, you can apply for alerts to be raised at ports to stop them.


Vlogs from our family law solicitors

In this vlog, Caitlin Jenkins, the familylawvlogger, introduces her Mills & Reeve colleague Amy Starnes, one of the specialist children law experts at Mills & Reeve. They discuss Amy's particular area of expertise in advising clients where one of the parents wishes to relocate to another country with the child or children, and the other parent wants the child or children to remain living with them in England & Wales.

Frequently Asked Questions


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