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Mother prevented from relocating within UK with her children

Courts will generally try to grant a parent’s application to relocate with their children within the UK unless there are exceptional circumstances.

That principle of exceptional circumstances arose when a court refused a mother permission to move with her four children to the Orkney Isles from a town in the north of England.

The mother had remarried after divorcing the father of her four children, aged between nine and 14. She and her new husband wanted to live in the Orkney Isles and so she applied for permission to relocate with her children.

The father opposed the move so the mother remained in England with her children while the matter was being resolved. The judge heard evidence from a social worker who had spoken to the children. The eldest son was ambivalent about the move, the daughter was in favour but the other two sons were opposed.

The judge found that the move would cause the children huge emotional strain and harm. He concluded that the move to the Orkney Isles was as close to leaving the UK jurisdiction as it was possible to get without actually going abroad. The circumstances were so exceptional that it was appropriate to refuse the mother’s application.

That decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal. It held that the mother’s application was fraught with difficulties. All four children had been brought up in an English town and were firmly rooted there.

Contact with their father was important to them but the distance of the journey involved would make that too difficult. The welfare of the children required that the mother’s application be refused. If that had to be expressed in terms of there being exceptional circumstances then that was the decision of the court.

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