the law and practice about relocating a child from the UK


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Location matters in international child relocation cases

In November 2016, a report ranked 22 countries in order, from those most likely to allow international child relocation to those least likely to allow it.

The data demonstrated that, unsurprisingly, countries which have large international workforces experience the highest number of international child relocation/leave to remove cases.

However, the data also shows that countries with such populations do not share the same approach to how such cases should be determined, with marked differences in approach being observed between different European countries and between individual states within the USA (with Pennsylvania, for example, more likely to allow child relocation than Florida).

The report was based on data from 22 different countries (including England and Wales, Scotland, other EU countries, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, United Arab Emirates, South Africa and various states in the USA) and was published by law firm Penningtons Manches.

Greece, followed by Japan and then Ukraine came first in the rankings, being the countries most likely to allow international child relocation; with Denmark, New Zealand and Belgium being the countries found least likely to allow parents to relocate children abroad.

The very strict approach to international relocation adopted by New Zealand can be understood in terms of the country’s geographical isolation. However, it is also the case that in NZ internal relocation applications (for example a move from the North to the South Island) are also difficult to win.

Out of the 22 countries listed, Belgium is the country from which it is most difficult to relocate a child, even though Belgium is the home of the European Parliament, has a large international population and most Belgian relocation cases involve a proposed move to another European country. However, in Belgium, parents automatically have joint parental authority and 50-50 shared childcare arrangements, with children spending alternate weeks with their mother and father, are the norm after separation or divorce.

United Kingdom (England and Wales) comes in just below the middle of the rankings at number 14, reflecting the court’s focus on the welfare of each child and the move away from the interpretation of the guidance in Payne v Payne (2001) which, until about 2011, had resulted in the UK being regarded as a pro relocation jurisdiction. The ranking table can be viewed on the Family Law Website

Maeve O’Higgins (, tel: 020 7539 4133
Family Law Partner, Moon Beever

This blog is intended for general information only and should not be considered as giving advice in relation to any individual case nor be taken as applying to any particular case. No liability is accepted for any such use of the information contained.