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In the post-pandemic era, as global travel springs to life again and remote work gains momentum, families are embracing the opportunity to create new homes beyond their homeland. With this global shift comes the need for a profound grasp of the intricacies surrounding the legal aspects of relocating with children outside the United Kingdom. This article delves into the crucial factors involved in the relocation of children outside the UK. It underscores the imperative of obtaining appropriate consent and adeptly navigating potential legal complexities.

Relocation of Children: Navigating the Legal Landscape

Amidst the resurgence of international moves, it’s paramount to comprehend the legal requirements for relocating children outside the UK. Similar to the relocation of children within the UK, securing consent from the other parent with parental rights and responsibilities is indispensable.

However, it’s pivotal to note that relocating minors to foreign lands without proper consent amounts to a criminal offence with potential child abduction ramifications.

The Role of Hague Conventions and Governmental Authority

In the context of international child relocation, the Hague Conventions emerge as pivotal frameworks. These international agreements come into play when dealing with child abduction across borders. Notably, the Scottish Central Authority stands as a key governmental entity tasked with addressing parental child abduction cases.

The Convention ensures the orderly return of children to their country of habitual residence, upholding international legal standards. It’s noteworthy that applications pertaining to the Hague Convention are under the purview of the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Noteworthy Legal Cases

Several recent legal cases have substantially shaped the landscape of international child relocation laws. These real-world scenarios provide nuanced insights into the myriad aspects that courts take into account when making determinations about a child’s relocation across international boundaries:

ZA v MN v B, A, Lord Advocate, M, AI 2022 CSOH 38:

In this instance, the parents of a 13-year-old girl sought her return to Qatar. The girl was resident in Scotland with three of her sisters, who were all over 16 years of age. However, the parents sought her return not to their care but to a residential childcare facility. One of the girl’s brothers, who continued to reside with the parents in Qatar, had a history of violence towards his sisters. The girls’ views were taken to mean that she did not wish to return to Qatar. The order seeking the return of the child was refused.

Q v R 2022 EWHC 2961 Fam:

A case of wrongful child removal from Ukraine, where the father contended that returning the child would subject them to grave risks. The mother’s evidence, accepted by the court, highlighted the safety of the village the child would return to. The mother undertook to remove the child if the conflict reached the village. This led to an order to return.

PB v LM 2023 SAC Civ. 12:

This case involved a Polish mother’s quest to return to Poland with her 5-year-old daughter. She had a large network of friends and family in Lublin and no assistance with childcare here to allow her to return to work. The father had been physically and mentally abusive to her. The child’s best interests were found to be best met by allowing the relocation to Poland despite the reduction in contact with the father.

Petition of BW 2023 CSOH 34:

In this case, Dutch social workers asked a Scottish mother to have both her children live with her in Scotland. The children were living with their father in the Netherlands, and there were concerns regarding his excessive drinking. Their father sought their return to the Netherlands, but the mother argued there was a “grave risk” of harm to the children, and they were habitually resident in Scotland. The courts found in her favour and the children remained in Scotland.

AD v SD 2023 CSIH 17:

This case involved children habitually residing in Illinois and retained in Scotland by their mother, citing psychological, physical, and sexual abuse concerns. The court’s refusal to order a return stemmed from a perceived “grave risk of harm.”

Z and X 2023 EWHC (602) Fam:

This case revolved around children wrongfully taken to Ukraine by their mother. Amidst escalating conflict and peril, the court recognised an unremitting “grave risk of harm” to the children, thwarting their return.

Protecting your child’s relocation rights

In the intricate realm of international child relocation, securing timely legal counsel is non-negotiable. If suspicions arise that your child might be relocated without your consent, seeking a court order becomes a safeguarding measure. Conversely, if your intent is to relocate with your child, understanding the legal landscape and obtaining expert advice are pivotal.

Our Family Law Team embodies a deep understanding of the complexities surrounding international child relocation. With extensive experience navigating intricate cases, we are equipped to offer the guidance essential for safeguarding your child’s rights and making informed decisions. If any of these issues resonate with you, reach out to us today. Our commitment is to provide the support and expertise you require.

Judith Higson, Executive Director and Head of the Family Law Team, prepared this article. It serves as a source of insightful information about the Relocation of Children and is not a replacement for personalised legal advice. Scullion LAW accepts no responsibility for the content of external websites linked within this article.

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