Whilst foreign travel may be far from anyone's thoughts at the moment, for parents living internationally relocating to their "home country" following the breakdown of a marriage may feel like the only way forward. However, an international dimension may exacerbate the already difficult question of where and with whom the child should live.

If, as a parent, you plan to move abroad with a child, you must obtain the consent of the other parent to remove the child from the UK. If he or she refuses to give their consent, then an application must be made to the court seeking permission to relocate with the child outside the United Kingdom.

A decision for a child to relocate involves a delicate balancing exercise in which the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration. When considering applications for relocation the court will carry out a welfare assessment and decide whether or not it would be in the best interests of the child to relocate.

If the application is refused the applicant parent may face a very difficult decision about their own relocation. They may feel tied to a country in which they have little family or support. In a small number of cases this may lead to that parent acting irrationally and removing the child without the authority to do so.

If a parent relocates with a child without the other parents' consent or an order of the court then the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction offers a remedy for the return of the abducted child.

Hague Convention

The Hague Convention is an international treaty designed to secure the return of children abducted across international borders. The UK is one of 101 signatories (as are most countries in Europe along with the US, Australia and New Zealand). If the child is taken to a signatory state then an application can be made for return of the child under the Hague Convention.

Applications under the Hague Convention are dealt with swiftly. Unlike relocation applications the court will not conduct a full welfare assessment and unless one of the few narrow defences to the Convention are met the court will order that the child be returned.

If you suspect that your child is at risk of being taken from the UK by their other parent then you should seek urgent legal advice as protective measures can be obtained.

Protective Remedies

The court has a wide range of powers to prevent the removal of children from the UK. The court may grant an interdict which is an order preventing removal of the child. It may also order passports to be surrendered and the disclosure of the child's whereabouts. Where there is an imminent threat an interdict can be bolstered by a UK wide port stop order which alerts all airports and seaports as to the potential unlawful removal of the child from the UK.

If you suspect that your child may be removed from the UK it is critical that you take urgent legal advice to prevent that from occurring rather than seeking to remedy the situation through the Hague Convention.

If you require advice on any above the above please get in touch with any of our specialist family law solicitors.