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Internal Relocation

UK and international law prevents a parent from removing a child from England and Wales without the permission of all persons with parental responsibility for that child.

The law does allow those with residence orders the right to take children on holiday, but restricts this to less than one month without additional permission.

One of the hardest set of circumstances for parents and the Court is where one parent seeks to move some distance from the other, and the move will disrupt the relationship and/or time that the children spend with the other parent.

If the parent wishing to move has sole care of the children, or is named as the person with whom the children live under a Child Arrangement Order, they do not normally have to seek the Court’s permission to relocate with the children. That said, the practical arrangement set down in any existing order of the Court need to be maintained, should this not be able to be achieved then an application to the Court may be necessary to vary the Order. In such circumstances, the parent with whom the children do not reside can apply to the Court for a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent the move and/or for a Child Arrangement Order seeking that the children reside with them should the parent carry through their relocation plan.


The need for internal relocation can arise in many circumstances. However, the most common situations are as follows: -

  • The applicant has remarried or is in a new relationship, and the new partner’s job or business has been relocated to another part of the UK.
  • The applicant has been offered employment in another part of the UK and/or their role is being relocated to another part of the UK.
  • The applicant wishes to return to the part of the country they grew up in to be closer to their friends and family following separation / divorce.
  • The applicant wants to relocate with the child for lifestyle reasons, for example wishing to leave a town or city in favour of living in the countryside or on the coast.

Typically, the applicant is the parent with whom the child lives. The situation where the child lives with both parents at two homes is dealt with below.

A parent has a number of options should the other seek to relocate with the children:

  • Accept that the children will move and seen a new Child Arrangement Order, if agreement cannot be confirmed even with the assistance of mediation, ensuring that lost time is made up through an increase in holiday time or weekends. Mediation must be completed before any application for a Child Arrangement Order is made, unless in cases of an emergency.
  • Apply for a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent the children from moving or to impose a condition to a residence order. This condition may prevent a parent moving the child from a particular geographic area, e.g. a town or city or county – it is essential that this is done prior to any move.
  • Apply for a new Child Arrangement Order. This could include an application for the children to change the parent with whom they live, and the parent relocating to be able to spend time with the children on weekends and holidays.

In reality, the request of a primary carer to relocate is unlikely to be refused unless there are compelling reasons to do so. A parent’s right to live where they want carries some considerable weight and the Court is unlikely to refuse the request unless there are strong welfare grounds to do so and/or the plans are unreasonable, unrealistic or ill thought through. It is also possible to argue exceptional circumstances if the move is a means of frustrating the relationship between the children and the non-resident parent.

The test to be applied in internal relocation cases is the same as for external relocation cases, although it is less stringent. Every case will of course depend on its own facts, and the children’s welfare remains the paramount concern of the Court.

Contact Us

Call our Child Care Helpline on 01924 431 774 or email to book a free information session at any of our offices.