Many thanks in advance for taking the time to read/post responses which are greatly appreciated.
I am posting this on behalf of a friend who doesn't feel very technology savy (emotionally too close to the subject as well) and is worried about putting personal information up.
My friend is a single parent to a 7 year old girl. She is a Doctor in the NHS and has worked hard during COVID as have many others. As forecasted, there is now an element of burnout plus wanting to spend more time with her daughter.
She has managed to secure a position at NYU as part of a sabbatical ( her brother also lives in NYC) from the NHS. Her employers are very supportive of her sabbatical as well. She hopes to be able to
1. Spend more time with her daughter (home based role with occasional visits to NYU)
2. Maintain the level of income they are used to (Ex- husband pays £7 per month in child maintenance) during the sabbatical and has found it hard to find roles in the UK that are suitable for them. My friend pays for her daughter's school fees (independent school) and all other extra curricular activities.
3. Offer daughter an opportunity to travel and spend time with other members of family (her brother and daughter are very close as he used to visit 3-4 times a year)- neither her ex nor she have any family in the UK who would be adversely affected.
4. She is very open to the option of her ex visiting them in NYC should he so choose and would continue with the video contact arrangements while there regularly with plans to visit the UK over school holidays.
My friend and her ex have a very acrimonious relationship since their divorce (he was financially abusing her and she filed for divorce). Being my friend I would obviously take her side however none of our friends chose his side. He is a sad, angry man and is now taking it out on the daughter.
My friend is really worried about upsetting him by going to court however she knows that approaching him is pointless. She did him that courtesy during their divorce and he went about taking all her personal/financial information etc to use against her.
She has already found a school (after virtual touring many) and sending her brother to see them as much as allowed during COVID. Has found all the same extra-curricular arrangements. Her brother has an apartment that he is offering her rent free for the duration of the sabbatical so that she can spend on the school fees (independent apparently more expensive than UK).
Grateful for advice and guidance please as to how she goes about the next steps. Does she need a solicitor? what documentation would she need to get ready please? Is she being reasonable considering a move over the summer with a view to her daughter starting school in september in NYC?
If your friend can get consent from the other parent to relocate, she wouldn't need to apply to court. If he refuses, then she would need to make an application for a Specific issue Order - often an application of this nature is known as Leave to Remove. The consent of the other parent or leave from the court isn't required for her to move away, but for her take the child out of the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom.
If she does apply to court, your friend would need to show that there is definite employment available to her should she relocate. I usually advise those wishing to relocate to put together a "relocation package" which sets out the criteria below in relation to relocating with a child; this will give the other parent something concrete to consider, and may provide reassurances to him that this is not an attempt by your friend to cut contact. If he still doesn't consent, then she can use the relocation package as part of your position statement in court proceedings.
Leave to Remove (LTR) proceedings may take around 6 months - or longer. A child's ages will taken into consideration, and their wishes will also be considered by the Court.
Your friend needs to do her research thoroughly, put together her arguments for moving - and why this relocation is in their child''s best interests - keep absolutely everything child-focused; allow the other parent some time to digest the proposal (and expect him to lash out and be difficult because the chances are he will - and probably refuse consent). She can then use her arguments - which will include a very comprehensive parenting time plan and how she will encourage and facilitate their child's relationship with the child's father - as part of the application for leave to remove.
The application is made for a Specific Issues Order under Section 8 of the Children Act or under Section 13 and is made using Form C100 and she will have to pay a fee of £215. In contrast to contact applications, there is no requirement to seek mediation.
An LRT case involves overriding the parental responsibility of the respondent parent and the applicant therefore has to show why the Court should do this. The overruling principle is that if the proposed move is ‘reasonable’, for the respondent to withhold consent is ‘unreasonable’ and leave to remove should only be refused if it can clearly be shown that the child’s interests are incompatible with those of the resident, applicant, parent. Incompatibility of interests will depend on two questions:
1. The effect of removal on the child’s relationships with those left behind (this includes paternal family not just Dad)
2. Conditions in the host country.
Your friend need to assemble her arguments carefully, following the above guidance - and remember, she will need to demonstrate that the move abroad is in their child's best interests (or that remaining in this country isn't) - it's not about her or her wishes because there is nothing to stop your friend yourself from moving abroad without her child - the application and arguments must be child-focused at all times.
There are 8 criteria that the Court requires to be satisfied when considering an application for LTR.
1. The welfare of the child is always paramount, so all aspects of the welfare checklist must be considered, and the child be given the opportunity to express his feelings.
Your friend's guide throughout must be the paramountcy principle and the elements of the welfare checklist.
She must show that the benefits of removing the child from the jurisdiction outweigh any damage caused by moving their child away from teachers, friends, other relatives, and, of course, the other parent.
She must show that their child fully understands all the implications of the move and has been given the opportunity to express his views and hasn’t been bullied.
2. There is no presumption created by s.13(1)(b) in favour of the applicant parent.
Simply because a parent has residence does not give them an automatic right to remove the child from the jurisdiction; they would still have to prove your case.
3. The proposals for relocation must be practical and include measures for ensuring continued adequate contact with the other parent.
Your friend must show she has considered all the implications of removal from the jurisdiction fully, including:
a) Proposals for the child’s living arrangements.
b) Arrangements for the child to remain in contact with the other parent. How will they travel? Where will they stay? Who will pay for this?
c) Arrangements for supplying the child’s financial needs.
d) Finalised arrangements for the child’s education – is there a firm offer of a school place? Is this the right place for the child? Is the child at a point in her education where a move will be disruptive? Did she involve the other parent in the decision? Were they consulted on alternatives? Has she sent them full details of the school including prospectus and syllabus?
e) Is the child involved in other activities – sporting or artistic, for example – which will be disrupted? Will she be able to continue these? What about sports teams, drama societies, orchestras, etc.?
f) Can the child speak the language of the new country? What measures will be taken to ensure she learns?
g) Has she registered the child with a doctor, dentist, optician, etc. Does your child have any special health needs? What medical insurance will be provided for the child?
h) An account of her reasons for wishing to move abroad – family, marriage, job, etc.
i) Evidence of the financial viability of the plan, including firm job offers.
j) Evidence of the accommodation, including address, pictures and estate agent’s particulars.
k) Evidence of links to the new country – family, etc.
l) Evidence of social opportunities and network.
m) Evidence that Court Orders made in the UK will be recognised and enforced in the new country.
n) Expert evidence of the psychological and developmental effects of removal on the child.
4. Consequently, the proposals have to be scrutinised with care and the Court needs to be satisfied that there is a genuine motivation for the move and not the intention to bring contact between the child and the other parent to an end.
5. The Court must consider the effect upon the applicant parent and the new family of the child of a refusal of leave.
She must show that a refusal of her application will impact psychologically on herself and her parenting ability. Show how it will damage your career prospects and financial status. Show that it will affect members of her extended family, etc.
6. The Court must consider the effect upon the child of the denial of contact with the other parent and in some cases his wider family.
Ideally you need to show that contact between the child and the other parent has broken down and that the other parent is no longer involved.
7. The Court must consider the arrangements for ensuring continuing contact between the child and the remaining parent.
She must show detailed, costed arrangements for continuing contact both with the ‘left behind’ parent and with the extended family. They must be practical and affordable.
Your friend is welcome to call the helpline if she has any questions.