September 23, 2011

Divorce: why children’s interests should always come first

The potential for multi-cultural and linguistic enrichment is just one of many bonuses for children in an increasingly global environment where multi-national marriages are commonplace. 

Unfortunately when things go wrong in these marriages, relocation after divorce is an issue that affects a large number of multi-national families – causing heartbreak to the parent who is separated from their children, as well as to the children themselves.

The family lawyers group Resolution estimates there are over 1,000 cases a year in which courts grant a parent permission to leave the UK with their offspring following a divorce.

However a recent landmark case highlighted how an expat Canadian living in the UK was forbidden from taking her two young children back to her home country after a divorce – a decision which could catapult children’s rights into the spotlight and have implications for thousands of expats in the UK.

In this particular case, the Canadian mother wished to move back to Canada with her two daughters, aged four and two, after her marriage breakdown. Feeling lonely and isolated in England, she argued that she should be allowed to return to her homeland.

A judge did in fact rule that she could return, but her ex-husband, and father to the children, appealed. The Court of Appeal ruled against the mother relocating because it would deprive her children of the important role that their father, who shares joint residence, played in their lives.

Here at Jones Myers our children’s team have a wealth of experience in international cases, which can have traumatic consequences for children and parents alike when they result in families being ripped apart and sometimes separated by thousands of miles.

The past decade has seen a trend by the courts to allow applications by one parent to move abroad, on the basis that if they were forced to stay they would be unhappy and the children would suffer as a result. It’s therefore heartening that this case points to a welcome shift towards a more child-centric attitude.

More than anything, the case highlights how scrupulous family courts will now have to be to ensure that the welfare of the children is made an absolute priority in any relocation applications.

If you are in such a relationship that has broken down, it’s vital that you and your partner discuss where you each want to be and – where would be best location for the children. Can the problem be solved by a long-term plan being agreed? If you can work things out together, or with the help of an experienced lawyer, then you can continue to fully parent your children without resorting to the courts.

For more information contact us here.