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How easy is it to bring your child back to the UK?

Earlier this week, Marilyn Stowe shared the story of a mother who had moved to a faraway country with her husband, an overseas national, and her young family, only to find herself “stuck” there after the marriage broke down. (The Expat’s Tale: “I’m a stuck mum”.) She is nearly at breaking point, having struggled unsuccessfully against that country’s legal system. In this follow-up post I intend to highlight some of the difficulties faced by expats who try to return to the UK with their children.

Browse expat forums, and you will discover that there are many “stuck parents”. It is sad to read that so many people now feel that they are “trapped” in a country where they do not wish to live. The alternative – moving back to the UK and leaving a child or children behind – is unthinkable for most parents. As a result, a parent can be left to grapple with life in a strange country, with no family to support them other than their former partner. The parent is left feeling lonely and isolated, which can in turn have a detrimental effect on the child.

When the court denies an application to leave, this is usually because the court believes that it would not be in the child’s best interest to relocate. The child’s welfare is of paramount consideration. However it seems nonsensical to think that it is in the child’s best interest to force a parent to leave the child behind or stay in a country to which the parent has no real attachment.

A note on emigration

When a couple decides to emigrate from the UK, little thought is given to what will happen if the relationship breaks down while they are living in another country. Many parents think that if their children were born in the UK that they will simply be able to return with them from Australia, New Zealand, USA and so on, but this is simply not the case. Sadly, a lot of parents find this out the hard way.

Many parents have new wills drafted before they emigrate, to state what will happen to the children if the parents die while the family is living in another country. So why do so few parents ask a family lawyer to draft an agreement about what should happen to the children if they split up? It is advisable to have, at the very least, a discussion about will would happen to the children in the event that the parents split up and one parent wants to return to the UK.

Obtaining the court’s permission

If a relationship breaks down and one parent wishes to return to the UK, that parent needs to have the other parent’s consent to take the child with them. If they do not have consent, they need the foreign court’s permission.

Obtaining the court’s permission is often a long and expensive process, with much emotional turmoil. Some parents spend tens of thousands of pounds in legal fees, fighting to be allowed to take children back to the UK with them. Having an agreement in place could, at the very least, minimise some of this. The parent who wishes to stay could still try and fight it, but if there was an agreement in place the relocating parent could have a stronger case.

The Hague Convention on Child Abduction

Many parents are tempted to return to the UK and “see what happens”. I can understand why parents might want to do this, but it is not a good idea. If the country from which the child has been removed is signed up to the Hague Convention, the parent left behind can make an application for the child to be returned.

Many of the countries to which Britons emigrate to are signed up to the Hague Convention, and a full list can be found here.

In these circumstances, the parent who has taken the child back to the UK will be treated as having abducted their child, because they have removed the child from the country in which the child is habitually resident. If a return is ordered though, it does not necessarily mean that the court is saying it is in the child’s best interest to live in that country. It means that the foreign country’s court has jurisdiction, and that the parent must secure permission to relocate from that court.

Under the Hague Convention, there are certain instances when the court does not need to order that the child is returned. These are as follows:

  • If more than one year has passed since the child was removed from the country of habitual residence, and the child is settled in his or her new environment.
  • If the other parent consented to the relocation or the court granted permission beforehand or afterwards.
  • If “there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation”.
  • If “the child objects to being returned and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which it is appropriate to take account of its views”.

Should a parent be faced with a Solomonic choice?

Certain countries are notoriously hard to relocate from. Take the recent case of B v K [2010] NZCA 96. The court decided that the mother could not relocate from New Zealand to Australia because, due to the length of the litigation, shared parenting had been put in place and appeared to be working. The “risks associated with parental conflict or the risk that the mother might become isolated to the extent that it affects her ability to be a good parent” were not sufficient to justify what had become a “good working solution for the children”.

My thoughts on this are that if the mother becomes so isolated and unhappy that it affects her ability to be a good parent, the court’s decision would not be in the children’s best interests.

In the UK, the rules regarding relocation take into account the effect that not allowing the move will have on the parent, and the subsequent effect that upon the child’s wellbeing. To me, this is much more logical than simply ignoring the parent’s state of mind. If a parent is isolated, unhappy and has no support system in terms of family, the parent’s distress is likely to have an adverse effect on the child. Surely it cannot be in the child’s best interest if, in these circumstances, the court forbids the child and parent from returning to the UK.

The reader who contacted this blog and shared her story told of the Solomonic choice that she was forced to make:

In this country, the parent who wishes to relocate is first asked by the judge and also the court psychologist whether he/she will stay with the child if denied relocation, even when the reasons for wanting to return are good. An answer of “no” is often taken to be proof of a lack of care for the child, resulting in the child being handed over to the non-relocating parent.

This seems wholly unfair. The parent is faced with the terrible choice of being stuck in a country where they are unhappy, or returning to the UK without their child. It could also be argued that if the parent answered “yes” to this question, the court could infer that it would not be so terrible if they denied the parent permission to relocate. This puts the parent in a terrible position, pitched against a system against which they may feel that they cannot win.

The American case of re Marriage of Burgess (1996) 13 Cal.4th 25, which concerns the relocation of children, states that neither parent “should be confronted with Solomonic choices over custody of minor children”, and this is entirely correct in my view.

Coming next: what rules are applied to cases in which one parent wishes to move, with the child, to another country?


Laura Guillon is the principal trainee solicitor at Stowe Family Law, assisting the Senior Partner. Laura is half French and speaks French fluently. Her interest is in ancillary relief, particularly cases that have an international element.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Chambers says:

    Can we please stop treating mothers as children or lesser beings who need special allowances because of their fragile nature.

    How about we put the children first and foremost?

    If a child is being brought up with family and friends and is habitually resident in a country, then just because one parent decides s/he would prefer to move somewhere else (even back to their original country), it should not mean the massive upheaval of the children from their left behind parent and family, friends and school etc

    It is the height of adult selfishness for a parent to remove a child from its familiar surroundings and family just because that adult has other preferences. It was the adults who made the decision where to live and to bring a child into the world, children should not have to suffer through adults poor decisions and inability to stick to their plans.

    If you move to another country with your partner and you have children then you should be prepared to make sacrifices for your children and not the other way around.

    Many times we see mothers in particular remove children from their familiar surroundings in the UK to abroad or from abroad back to the UK on no more than a whim often or to suit these mothers needs rather than the children’s. It’s about time mothers were expected to be as child focussed as fathers and put children’s needs before their own.

    To remove children from their familiar surroundings where they have grown up and go to school and crucially from another parent and their family and friends is the most selfish act possible by a parent.

    Let’s treat mothers as adults rather than special cases and put children first and foremost for a change.

    • Anon says:

      I was forced to stay in the U.S by my husband who kept removing my son from our home and taking him out of state every time I expressed the need for us to return to the UK ( we had only come for a three month visit). When he found out I had been in touch with Reunite (perhaps leaving voicemails is not the best way of helping their clients) he did it again. He strangled me and threatened to take my son away if I told anyone. The police (typically scraping through school at 16) listen to me speak and take his side since I must be grateful to be allowed to live in the U.S ( the perception of the UK here is Dickensian). I was told that, since I did not report the abuse, I had no grounds to stop him taking my son since we were still married and no custody arrangement existed. A divorce attorney informed me that, since I do not own a car and have no ties here, a judge (again. Municipal judge with no in depth knowledge of international custody issues) would grant my husband custody since I could not transport the child and presented a flight risk. Another divorce attorney suggested I leave and ‘see what happens’. I have no money left, 8 months on I have lost my home in the UK and I cannot work since I do not have a car (it’s not a choice – people just don’t get hired if there is no car and it is not stated on any rejection letter and there is no reliable transportation here). To remain with my son I have to endure physical, verbal and psychological abuse every day.

      My son is developmentally delayed and requires vigilance, but my husband is in denial and therefore does not take precautions around water, traffic etc. I have no doubt that this situation will culminate in my ending up dead or my child being taken away by Family Services because my husband is an abuser and I am perceived to have done nothing about it, therefore putting my son at risk. I cannot bear the prospect of leaving my son behind because I doubt he will survive to see his fourth birthday alone with my husband and his parents ( who routinely abused their own son, obtaining credit using his social security number when he wasn’t even in preschool. I can’t imagine what they would do to a disabled child who cannot explain to anyone what is happening to him.)

      • N says:

        Just read your post I’m in a similar situation. My husband and I both Australian citizens moved to US for his employment we are in process of divorcing marriage was emotionally and Physically abusive in Australia he beat me so badly police arrested him and an Appreheanded Violence order was taken out for Domestic Abuse so he has a history back home but not here in the US. I am isolated here in a rural area with just a couple of friends no support no family I’m extremely lonely and just left with my partners weekly torments using the children as tools to get to me. He has terminated all child support and cut our health cover. I just want to go home to the support of my family and to return to the culture that I’m comfortable in. Wondering how you are going ?

    • Jac says:

      Your comment has no insight to the real issue here. Many parents dont realise the law before relocating. Mothers can be faced with abuse from partner, unable to secure work to survive and a foreign legal system that works against them. Some mothers end up homeless and deemed unfit to care for their children because they chose to try and leave an abusive partner. If children have no need for a mother figure in their life that would be fine, but thats not the case. Being an immigrant mother too, many depend solely on the father, and when that fails or trust has been betrayed what is the mothers hope then?

  2. Six-Armed Momma says:


    The fathers’ rights groups have vocally exerting pressure for some time now. In fact, it is amazing how much time these men seem to have to push their agendas on the web and elsewhere, efforts which often include suggesting measures be put in place to make it more difficult for women to leave unhappy marriages in the first place.

    It is most often because a good family life is perceived to be more easily obtainable elsewhere that the mothers move those children in the first place. Great Britain has experienced many outward migrations over history. Her offspring discovered and settled new worlds in expectation of a better life for future generations. However, the grass is not always greener, and arguing that mothers should therefore then stay put after moving, for no other reason than because they are “there now”, is utter rubbish.

    The economic conditions, schooling, culture and quality of relationships in another place may well be better for children than the disputed location.. Children are not so fragile that they would not thrive after an adjustment period, as long as their life rhythms “at the hearth” remain essentially the same. I have seen this happen. Many times, after the dust settles, they find they are doing well, and if a mother is happy then often the children are happier as well:

    Mothers carry a larger share of the household organizational burden for the family. Doing more than their humanly logical allotment of the domestic chores, bringing in bacon, remembering and coordinating everyone’s schedules, doing more of the “emotional work” and communication with teachers, etc. It goes on. In sum, mothers bear more weight in ensuring that family affairs run smoothly. As a functional linchpin in the family microsystem, mothers’ emotional health is of some importance. To dismiss this is to be ignorant of the reality of family women’s daily lives.

  3. MIchael Robinson says:

    To echo the comments above, what seems missing in this article are consideration of the children’s needs. An understandable ommission, given that the same happens in courts every day, as 90% of applications to relocate are granted (by one parent after separation).

    There should be sympathy for any person who prefers to move back to a country of birth, but the question rarely asked (including by the judiciary), is what impact does the move have on the rest of the family.

    Sandra Davis of Mischcon De Reya phrased it thus ‘‘The choice to have children necessarily involves sacrifices… One of those sacrifices must be to prioritise a child’s needs to maintain a fulfilling relationship with both of his parents over an often selfish desire to start afresh following parental separation.’

    Sadly, our UK courts do not consider children’s needs in relocation cases, at least not according to the welfare checklist or mindful of contemporary expert evidence. Children are expected to cope with a move abroad, the mother’s needs and happiness are prioritised which goes counter to the paramountcy principle.

    Research shows us that children are 40% more likely to suffer mental health problems when removed from one parent. Relocation abroad is at the severe end of the spectrum, when the severe diminishing of their bond with one parent is compounded by a loss of friends, wider family, and a drastic change in the status quo. Such separation also inhibits education and emotional and academic development. Not my opinion, but hard evidence from leading psychological and sociological academics and institutions.

    Parliament decided 20 years ago that the status quo was an important consideration in child welfare. Sadly, the courts ignore not only this (in relocation cases), but the expert evidence which shows how likely a child is to suffer harm.

    Sadly too, the courts pander to the ‘ME’ generation, forgetting that with rights, come responsibilities.

    Michael Robinson

  4. MIchael Robinson says:

    Six Armed Momma…

    The facts are that the amount of time fathers spend on childcare is just 15 minutes less a day on average than that of mothers (source… Equal Opportunities Commission 2008 Research). The level of father involvement in childcare has increased 9 fold since 1970s.

    It’s not about father’s rights though, but the increasing importance of the child/father bond as society has changed. It’s about a child’s right to family life, and recognising the emotional harm caused to children by a drastic breach in the status quo that relocation away from one parent, wider family, school, culture, and friends brings. A child’s rights are now enshrined in a United Nations Convention, but domestic law is not in keeping with international conventions designed to protect child welfare. The reasons for such rights (the child’s), is that research is conclusive that children suffer harm when their relationship with either parent is diminished.

    The facts are that a child is 40% more likely to suffer mental health problems in later life when their relationship with their father (and no doubt mother) is diminished. 15 studies by leading psychological and sociological experts/institutions highlight risks of harm caused by relocation away from one parent.

    A mother’s psychological health of course has importance, but should not outrank a child’s needs, and the child’s health, as we currently see happen in the courts. The interesting point is that not one research study has found, in 40 years, that the ‘distress argument’ is anything more than judicial theory. It has no basis in fact, whereas the research I point to involves sample groups of up to 40,000 children.

    Michael Robinson

  5. Six-Armed Momma says:

    This also includes the responsibility to give the child the best possible life, which could be defined in terms of quality rather than quantity of care time.

    In the case of Rosa v Rosa, in Australia, a child and her mother were ordered to stay in a bleak remote mining community because the father refused to accept a transfer away from his job so that the child and her mother could enjoy the support of the mother’s large extended a familiar civilised setting with many more opportunities and comforts -all so that the father could have exactly 50/50 shared care.

    If a child’s welfare is paramount, then shared parenting laws that emphasise a status quo for its own sake and equally-meted-out care time does not seem to serve the child’s interest, if that child would fare better elsewhere for many good reasons.

    If, as in the aforementioned case, the mother is being forced to live in a caravan, unable to find a position requiring her skills, isolated from her family and support network, struggling daily with loneliness and bitter aftermath of a breakup in which surely the bleakness and remoteness of that very location played a part, then that surely cannot be providing that girl with a good childhood.

    That decision gave too much weight to the husband’s desire to work a certain job in a certain place iover the wife’s reasonable request to move back to where she has support, a social service network, and housing and employment prospects.

    Who is the narciscsist here? And whose interests are being catered to? Obviously the father’s. This type of legislation is not child-centred. It is simply indicative of a reactionary trend triggered in response to more women entering the workplace, and more displaced fathers having care of children.

    The fact is that every relocation case has its own history and specifics, it is not always just some selfish mother wanting to decamp for “childish” reasons, and any legislation *having the real-life effect* of establishing a precedent in favour of shared care for every unfortunate couple being dredged through the courts will simply add to the growing number of sad cases in the news, such as this one cited above, and others. Among this latter for example I can cite immature or substance-abusing young men being given visitation because of a perceived “need for two parents”, even breastfeeding infants, said men becoming irritated by the child’s cries because they disturb some activity such as a video game and hit the child or handle him or her roughly.

    Having one’s limb caught in a steel trap is also “status quo”. Surely if a parent were the one immobilised in this way, the “status quo” would be pleasant for neither the parent, nor the child who has to witness it.

  6. MIchael Robinson says:

    No one is suggesting that all relocation applications should fail, simply that the current weighting towards the distress argument is too great in this jurisdiction.

    I could easily point to a relocation case where shared care existed, the mother had never been to Australia, CAFCASS were unable to do a report because they were too busy (quote), the mother had never been to Australia or visited prospective schools (school selection was a bundle of internet printed reports), the child had a bedroom at the paternal grandparents who also took the child to school every day (but their views, and the child’s, were not heard at all), and leave to remove was rushed throughand granted in 6 weeks. The barrister in that case said outside the court said (and I quote) ‘I can’t appeal, if I do the judge will kick me round the court room because she refused a leave to remove two years ago which got overturned at appeal, and judges don’t like that’.

    Or another case where the children both stated they did not wish to leave the UK (but the trial judge failed to mention this in judgment).

    Or countless others…

    I’m in an unusual situation where if a parent searches on google on ‘leave to remove’, two of the top ten websites are mine, and I’m contacted by many, many parents and grandparents who feel that the courts lean too far in one direction, and child welfare is rarely considered.

    The answer isn’t to lean too far in the other direction, but adhere to a more child focused set of guidance (I favour and support the guidance in the Washington Declaration).

    85% of solicitors polled by the Resolution felt that the courts grant leave to remove too easily. It’s not just third sector campaign groups who feel this. 58MPs supported an Early Day Motion in 2009 calling for the protection of child welfare in relocation cases. The courts are obstinately ignoring well reasoned arguments for change, and their only defence is ‘we need more research before there can be change’ despite a compelling body of research existing which proves them wrong, and none which supports their position.

    There will always be competing rights in family law cases. The rights of the child and their welfare must be paramount.

    Michael Robinson

  7. Joanna says:

    My worst nightmare became a reality upon returning to NL for legal advice with my child in 2008…
    We left Canada when she was a baby in 2005 – but I later discovered I was wanted for kidnapping my own child!
    I returned to NL as I am a Dutch citizen, only to be arrested and jailed and have my 4yr old daughter sent into temporary foster care.
    Despite the fact I had full custody and was not in breach of article 3 of the Hague convention on the date of our departure in 2005 – the Central Authorities in NL managed to twist things and find loopholes, ignoring article 12 and stating she had only been in NL for 5 days (regardless of the fact we had left Canada 3 years prior when she was still a baby). In April 2008 my daughter was sent back to her father in Canada and an 18 month battle against my OWN extradition to Canada ensued – finally, in the final appeal – it was decided in May 2009 that I was not guilty of the crime for which the extradition was sought as I had custody on the date in question and thus could not be in breach of custody rights… whilst the removal may be “wrongful” and prevented my ex-husband from exercising visitation rights – it was by no means a kidnapping.
    I, along with several other mothers in similar situations, believe it is high time the Draconian Hague Convention was updated to reflect commonly occurring situations in today’s Global Village. MOST of all – the RIGHTS and WELFARE of the children should ALWAYS be more important than so called “habitual residence” My daughter was a baby when we left Montreal and a 4yr old with friends, neighbours and “habits”when she was put on a plane back to Canada in 2008 – if ANYTHING this is a crime against children. Fleeing an unhealthy, abusive environment with your child should not be deemed a punishable crime, there have to be clear exemptions in such cases!
    My daughter, now 7 and I have not been together since 2008 and her father refuses to agree to Summer Vsitation DESPITE the scope of the Hague Convention and several attempts to come to an agreement for the sake of our daughter…

  8. Going home? - Marilyn Stowe Blog says:

    […] sad phenomenon of the ‘stuck mum’ is one we have examined in earlier stories. We have heard from some of them on the blog. They are brave women because they […]

  9. sabie says:

    What I can see is that there a many narcisstic men out there how do not really care about their child and former partner. When a family breaks down that best is to be surrounded in this times of crisis by close family and friends. But those are back home and not in the expatriate country. In many cases like as in mine it is the dad who had an affair with another women, also an expat. Me as mother I do neither have a financial basis nor family support system in the foreing country. I am now forced by my expartner to live in difficult financial, personal, professional situation. These men are utterly irresponsible, selfish narcissts.

  10. Observer says:

    No, I’m afraid the irresponsibility, selfishness and narcissism (let’s spell it correctly, please) comes from thinking your child is your possession, and can be uprooted by you whenever you like. If you want to be surrounded by your family and friends, then go right ahead. But the child stays where he/she was born, and where he/she has a home. And please leave your gender hatred out of this. It has nothing to do with family law, but should be addressed with therapy instead.

  11. Observer says:

    In the dark ages, men roamed the earth and expected their children and wives to follow them everywhere. If a wife was disobedient, she was thrown out and made destitute, never to see her children again. Men didn’t even have to apply to a court for this idiotic thing called leave to remove. They just did it. If the wife objected, they were labeled selfish and incarcerated for their insolence.

    It seems that some would like to still live in the dark ages, but with the genders in the above scenario reversed.

    For the sake of goodness…!

  12. StuckinFrance says:

    I am facing a situation where I have been unable to raise my children in the UK (married to a French man). Yes you could argue we “chose” to live there or otherwise that my selfish husband who is now leaving me refused to look for a job in the UK. I work like crazy to live in France – I am worn out and isolated. He has arranged things very nicely for himself so that he will be surrounded by his friends and family and I am stuck here while he is about to be made unemployed. Where does this leave me? We married in France so I will not be able to move back to the London easily – even though it’s only a 2.5 hr train ride from Paris. I am not saying I would do that automatically but if I have better prospects and a better shot of being happy (which by the way is not entirely selfish – I don’t think my children need to two depressed parents) then it shouldn’t be a given that I am stuck here. He is threatening all kinds of things and not only has wanted to destroy my confidence in the last few years but also tries to undermine my role as a mother. The working hours in France are horrific (it’s a myth that no-one works here) and despite the holidays I would have a better quality of life in the UK. So would my children – the education system here is terrible and does not promote confidence or individuality. The fact is having got married in France and working as I do to support and nuture my family all stand against me. I would have been better off not getting married, living on welfare and being a victim. Now I must try not to show this to my kids while my pot smoking lazy husband will have joint custody and I am prisoner here until I am 50.

    • toni says:

      dear stuck in france, i am stuck in switzerland with it sounds a similar situation to yours. i was wondering if you made it back to UK and how you did it? thanks for any reply/help

  13. StuckinFrance says:

    Oh and by the way to mr or ms “observer” home is not a country in itself – it’s a place where you can be brought up safely and ideally in the best financial circumstances possible. The fact is children do better in marriages with two comitted partners – when one decides not to honour that commitment they should at least think about what’s best in the long term for the family and not their own personal agenda. (Sounds like you think children are possessions and to be used to hurt an ex) Your snide comments about correct spelling are totally inappropriate given the ordeal this poor woman is going through.

  14. Luke says:

    “Observer” is right on this, I understand that people may want to move but forcibly taking their children away from the other parent is unacceptable.

    If a resident custody parent wants to move away they should sign over to the other parent resident custody and become the non resident parent.
    Only in circumstances where the other parent doesn’t want residency should moving away with the child then become an option.

    I am always amazed how resident custody parents can be so unreasonable on this subject.

  15. clare says:

    I am stuck in France with my husband who promised that after 5 years if things did not work out we would return to the UK. I am now economically deprived, verbally, mentally and occasionally physically abused. I am told that if I try to take my children back to the UK, I will loose them for good as they are domiciled in France. My oldest son (8) years is truly integrated and happy. My youngest (7) is dysphasic, and Dyslexic and is struggling terribly and very unhappy. He states that he would rather learn English. I feel it would be better for him to focus on his mother tongue,to minimize his distress and although I would not wish to disrupt my oldest, he adapts easily to all situations and makes friends well.
    My husband won’t even entertain an assessment in the UK for my youngest child. My husband will not renew their passports and so my parents pay to come over to see them and I have no money to organize, legal help. I am not a selfish mother, I run a ski chalet to pay the bills while my husband goes skiing. He controls all the finances and I basically have no control over my life anymore. What I am is stupid for coming to this country in the first place..much to my husbands’ amusement. As a mother I am not in anyway selfish. I will put up with this, as I cannot leave my beautiful children, but I am being gradually destroyed and miss the UK and my family terribly and worry for my 7 year old.
    Finally, what indicates his lack of selfishness is his unwillingness to learn French. Having returned from a meeting with the school about changing his education once again. It was me that did all the talking in French. My husband doesn’t have any leaning difficulties, but he expects mt youngest son with all his problems to be bi lingual ……Who is the selfish parent???

  16. A says:

    My mistake? To be believe a man’s sweet words and promises and staying in this country for our relationship. I ended up stuck for many years. Kept my head above the water barely, worked while bringing child up with husband who seemed to have had his body and mind taken over by allien forces! The sweet man became verbally abusive first, as soon as the child was born, then started going out a lot. How interesting their timings are! Does he want me to move back to my country with our child? No. Does he ever collect the child from school? No. Can I call him to step in so I can go out and do a job? No. Did he find another woman easily although we were together still? Yes. Did she care about our family? No. Did he rush into a second marriage? Yes. Did he ever thought of the impact of his remarriage on his child? No. Is he stuborn? Yes. Is he selfish? Yes. Does he care about anyone else other than himself? No. Does his second wife care about anyone else other than herself? No. What about me? I am far too stupid to think some people can be human, considerate, fair & grateful. Fool me!

    • RB says:

      My daughter is trapped in the USA with my two grandchildren . Her ex has two children in the uk. He took my daughter and children on the pretence of a larger house and she would be able to not work when in fact he was running away from paying child support for his children.he owes the uk thousands.
      My grandchildren want to see their half siblings and at least be in the same country.

      • Marilyn Stowe says:

        Dear RB
        If you mean your daughter is living in the US with her children then she needs a US court order to return here with the children if he won’t consent. To do otherwise risks her committing an offence of child abduction which the US take very seriously and Hague Convention proceedings to return the children if she just came here. The relevant court is where the children are based.
        I think she needs to see a lawyer over there and apply to a US judge.
        If the facts are different then please write in again.

  17. A says:

    Don’t worry “stuck mums”. Life changes all the time. Just make sure your efforts are for the benefit of your children first. Children know who was there for them all along. Men can be bitter, women can be bitter but nothing matters more than the love and hope we offer our children. Security and safety in today’s world is harder to achieve than before. Just look at the state of the world. It just tells us that no place is perfect. Ex husbands and ex wives can work together nicely and many do. It usually happens when new partners stay out of it and let them sort out their problems by themselves. There are too many new wives willing to vilify the ex wife for her own gain.

  18. Dee says:

    I think people who are so easily saying “children should come first” either never experienced bad marriage, or don’t look at the deeper picture of a bad marriage. As it was mentioned in original post by Marylin, parents who find themselves in an unhealthy marriage are not very good parents. At least, in most cases. And mother often spend more time with kids, therefore, mother who is worried, unhappy, isolated and scared will have a negative effect of those kids. I moved from Canada 6 months ago with my husband who got the job in the UK, and our two toddlers. Our kids were born and raised in Canada, I had a job there and I didn’t even want to move to England. However, my husband is very much career oriented and this was a great career move for him. In order to convince me he was promising all kinds of things, and I didn’t want to split up at that point thinking of course about our kids and how unfair it would be to them to divorce. Well, that was a big mistake since our marriage was not very good anyways, and it seems to be going only downhills. As I mentioned, my husband is a career oriented, I would say workaholic, also very controlling and emotionally abusive. All he cares about is his work and being on the internet every night. He thinks if he is making enough money, he is done with what he is suppose to in regards to family. Now, I want to leave, and yet I can’t. I cry every day, I’m very scared and yet I can’t find way out. My husband threatens to take all money away if I try to look for a lawyer. He threatens to take our kids. He doesn’t even allow me to go with kids just for a few days vacation. I am not allowed to go anywhere, I get some money for monthly spending and I have to sit at home with kids. I don’t drive and he wouldn’t let me. I wanted to buy bed for myself, he wouldn’t let me. If I try to divorce, I am here on a dependent visa (my husband’s visa) and therefore I automatically don’t have a right to remain in England anymore. However, I don’t know what happens with kids in that case? I can not imagine leaving my kids behind, I wanted to work out with him some kind of agreement telling him that he can see kids anytime he wants, they can spend vacation with him, and I would never ask him for any child support, I would gladly go to a lawyer and sign all of that. But he just keeps saying that I could leave but not with kids, even though he knows I will never leave without kids. Funny thing is, he hardly even spends any time with kids. So, I am stuck here, not knowing what to do and where to look for a help. As for kids and their own good, I do not believe it’s healthy for them to look two miserable parents who either fight or don’t talk at all. To see their mother most of the time scared and worried. And it’s proven that our relationships as adults have a lot to do with earlier memories of relationship our parents had. Therefore, by being in an unhealthy marriage I don’t think we are doing a favor to our kids.

  19. Name Witheld says:

    I’m a mom who has left her 8 year old son in South Africa to a man I was never married to, a multi millionaire, who promised me he would never stop me coming back to the uk to live……read on……on July the 31st 2013 after being made redundant, physically beaten by a neighbour in front of my son…..had to return to the uk. I begged his father on my knees to bring my child with me, I have joint rights and responsibilities for my son with his dad. But I Never received an ounce of maintenance from the father. If I hadn’t agreed to joint parenting he threatened to fight for full custody due to my mental health. Didn’t have the courage or money to fight to remove my son. 10 anti dpressants later, a stint in hospital with severe depression, I returned to the uk. I have a job, am off all tablets and am ‘home’. But….everyday is a living hell. I long for my child who I see every 9 weeks. He has flown over and I have been back once. We skype everyday. My last visit 2 weeks ago left me speechless. As a qualified social worker I have not once disrespected his fathers role in his life. I know and have worked with the impact of that, kids can’t be made to choose. But his father is 63, and has no patience or time for his son. My son opened up for the first time last month and wants to come to England to live with me. He was amazed by the fact he could walk in the streets that there was no electric fencing and mom doesn’t cry everyday. I am a vibrant, deep, committed mother. I would still not allow him to ‘run down’ his father, I’m not serving him as his mother if I do that, we rather discussed dad’s positive fathering, the conversation was short. But I explained to him that mom would have to go to court to fight for him if he wanted to stay with me. He was devastated, he cried for 2 days when I left and has been out of school for most of 2 weeks. ….the little chap is busy sabotaging his life. Yet still in his best interests at this point I email his father with my concerns in that our child is deeply unhappy with his life and would he work together to help him through his sadness and grief, no reply a week later. I am afraid when he arrives in 8 weeks that he will not get on the plane to return, I know him, and I will be a ‘criminal’ if I do not manage to persuade him to return to South Africa. Be clear all you who read this, South Africa has a new childrens act but the courts remain confused about the relocation issue, money talks over there……more money, longer court case he who is richer wins… is a reality. Read any case pertaining to relocation in SA. The Hague convention is good, I can understand the pain and loss of any left behind parent. Also I wouldn’t want to put my sons father what I am going through…..but I’m a mother and I know my child, he would never speak badly of his father unless it was real for him. His father has no entertainment in his house, no childrens games and my son still sleeps in the same bed as his dad….his dad is not a bad man, but is not in touch with his 8 year old sons needs…strained relationships with 2 older children he now has something to prove. Tonight I sit on skype comforting my child’s pain. I take responsibility for that…I do, but in essence he wouldn’t have had a mother if I had stayed in a country I now fear….one of the highest murder rates daily in the world. It’s a bad situation all round, for our son, dad and me. But he wishes to be with me 45, full of energy, an active parent compared to dad’s age which just limits his attitude towards his son……my son had a stint in hospital recently, he had a tooth abscess and it was only when I saw his huge swollen face on skype, that I insisted dad take him to hospital…..3 days it took to persuade him and my son had surgery in the end…….. eat your heart out. I’ll never give up hope though. I’ve even offered to pay for all his flights back to South Africa if he lived with me…..

  20. Name withheld says:

    I don’t have a chance in hell after reading all these accounts. I am stuck, want to go back to the uk with my children. My husband is French and stubborn and obnoxious! I am miserable, have no family no friends, on my own. My huband is the only breadwinner and works long unreasonable hours which means I can’t work and need to look after my two children. He is an adulterer, verbally and physically abusive and a mummies boy. My children are the world to me without whom I would cease to exist. I don’t want to live here any more with this man. I have begged him to find a job back in the uk but point blank refuses and says the uk is a shit country! Every avenue I have per sued to try and go back with my babies comes to the same conclusion , I can’t as they are habitually resident in France. My husband has proudly announced how his mother will look after any legal issues in the event I try to take the children without his consent. I once called the police after he slapped me around, police came asked me to leave and had a great laugh with the abuser. Tell me where the justice is? I feel so down trodden that I think death is better than a life like this, either way I won’t have my children and I have no fight left. He kills me a little everyday and I have no where to go! I leave and I abandon my children, I take them and I am abducting them, a cruel joke.

    • A says:

      So sad to hear your story and so many others like yours.
      I have a daughter, trapped like you in France and my grandchildren are forbidden from leaving the country even for a holiday to England, by a man who chooses not to see them, contact them, contribute towards them. He has been violent to their mother and sworn he will never give his permission for the children to leave the country even for a holiday to see their relatives – his family never contact the children either. He has denied his children the right of freedom to visit their family who live in England..not move there, just a holiday!..And by a man who is intent on using the system to continue hurting my daughter at the expense of the children who want to visit their family for a holiday, and who have now through his actions towards them and his mother and lack of interest shown by him, asked not to see him anymore. He has power over their lives and that is all he wants – is that what justice is all about, using the system to continue destroying my daughter at the expense of hurting the children? What can we do, how can we stop this abuse of the system and the children? Who will help us?
      Be brave, don’t give up. Thinking of you and so many other adults and children trapped away from their family and support. You are not alone, but is there anyone who can help us fight this?

  21. jay says:

    I too wish to return to the UK. My ex has been in prison for almost 3 years, awaiting trial for murder. He has refused permission for our daughter to relocate, from his prison cell. South African law favours the rights of fathers. If I leave SA without with our child, I will be guilty of kidnapping and due to the situation (inadequate funds) I cannot afford to get a court order to remove her. My choices are to either spend what I have (retirement fund) on legal fees or airline tickets, and take my chances. In what world is that fair? My daughter deserves a future free from the stigma of a dad in prison.

  22. Hannah says:

    Sorry to hear about everyone’s difficult circumstances. I am stuck in rural Ireland after moving with my partner of 12 years. I regretted it from the moment I arrived and should have listened to my gut! I was crippled with homesickness and the change in my partner and our relationship was immediate. Along with the smothering nature of her family, I was miserable. After 18 months she ended our relationship and refused to get professional help to try and save our relationship. Day to day I try so hard to be happy but I frequently feel consumed with anger, regret, and this sense of just existing and coping. I cannot return to England as I am not the biological mother to one of my three children, so under Irish law, I now have no parental rights to him, and my partner has lost parental rights to the other 2 boys. I am currently in England with my family and my boys for a holiday and just feel that wonderful sense of belonging. I dread returning tomorrow! I have wonderful friends in Ireland but there’s no place like home and the support of family. I feel bitter that my ex partner has all those things on her doorstep. I know that even if I could legally take my children home to England I would not as I could never be the reason for taking them away from their other mother. I just hate the way my ex still has so much control over me. We live ten minutes apart so we can co parent. I hate where I live and would love to move closer to Dublin or Belfast but I can’t even move within Ireland. Sometimes I feel like a puppet with her still pulling my strings! I just love my boys more than anything in the world. I hope one day I can deal with all this anger and regret otherwise it will just destroy the future that I do have.

  23. Andrew says:

    The title of this post is tendentious in the extreme. It could read “How easy is it to take somebody else’s child away to a country where he will probably rarely be able to enjoy contact?”

  24. Rebecca says:

    Here goes.
    In 2010 myself and my ex-husband moved to the USA with our two children.
    Our marriage deteriorated over the next two years.
    We agreed to separate and divorce. The children have remained in the USA with him.
    We maintained an amicable relationship until last year, at which point he made changes to his life which have impacted our children greatly.
    The problem I now have is that our relationship is no longer amicable. And that I have no legal regress to return to the USA.
    I wouldn’t bring my children back to the UK but since the changes I feel a much greater need to be living in close proximity to them.
    I don’t have money to pay a lawyer. I have no ability to seek legal aid within the USA as I am a UK citizen.
    I am putting this out there in the hope that someone who could help might see this.

    • Mandy says:

      You won’t be able to move there. You’ve lost the right of abode and there isn’t anyone who will give you financial sponsorship now nor do you have a relative who could apply for you. You could consult with an immigration attorney but their response will be the same since you don’t have any grounds to apply for residency. Your best bet is to talk to your ex about your concerns – I assume the changes to his life amount to him getting involved with another woman and you just have to get over that – people move on. As long as his new partner understands that he comes as a package and he continues to put his children first, there is no problem. You gave him custody so you have to accept that he is the primary decision maker. The fact that he’s moved on is no reason for you to move next door and stalk him, since you don’t want your children living with you then that’s what it sounds like.

      If you’re that concerned about your kids, hire an attorney and go for custody in the UK (also a long and difficult road, but more sense than you moving to another country). If you have £500k then you can set up a business there and go as an investor.

      Good luck

  25. Rebecca says:

    He isn’t putting the children first. Hence my problem.
    Thank you for your kindly input, it is much appreciated.

    • Mandy says:

      Rebecca: You can’t know that given you are in another country and your children’s school would pick up on any problems they are having. Moving to the US will not guarantee you custody – from personal experience I can tell you that the judges favour the US parent because of the threat that you will take take the children out of the country. You cannot assume that your children are being abused because there is a new woman in your ex’s life.

      Andrew: you sound like a piece of work- so glad you’re not the father of my children (for a myriad of reasons)

  26. Andrew says:

    Mandy: an order of the UK courts purporting to give Rebecca custody of two American children living in America with their father will not be worth the paper it is written on when she tries to claim custody there – especially if she can’t live there. She needs to accept, and I know it’s painful, that she can have as much contact as their father allows and she can afford to exercise, and no more.
    If I was her ex-husband I would make her leave her passport with me when she saw them, just in case she had got British passports for them on the QT.

  27. Rebecca says:

    They are British citizens and they come and visit me here on their British passports.
    I know the law and I would never deprive them of their father.
    I wanted help but so far all I have been offered is the reality of my situation plus slurs on my character. ‘stalking your ex’, ‘taking her passport away’.
    Thanks guys, thank you so much.

    • Mandy says:

      Rebecca: No slurs intended but I recommend you read the rest of the posts on this thread and see how women have been physically and mentally abused by their husbands, kept as slaves, lost their children because of small minded judges and antiquated legal systems and ask yourself whether, regardless of how your situation is painted on here, your motivations compare. You made the decision freely to give custody of your children to your husband – try to remember why you did that and the fact that, if you think my comments are harsh, you should consider that you’ll get much deeper scrutiny from the US Authorities and your ex’s attorney. One other option is to gain a Masters degree and move with a job if your motivation is to leave the UK. As for the other comment – I distance myself from Andrew’s comments. Good luck.

  28. toni says:

    are there any success stories of relocation backvto england. i am stuck in switzerland after divorce with 2 children, but sad, isolated & miss what i call home…

  29. Emy says:

    Please help!!
    I am stuck in Netherlands with my two kids and i need to return to UK. My husband will not give consent for my kids to return to their country of birth. My relationship with him is very toxic. I cannot leave my kids behind that is totally put of question. I have no job friends or family in this country. Please help what are my options- what do i have to do to get my kids back home to UK??

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Emy. Sorry that you are in such a difficult situation. I’ve passed your question on to our Client Care Team who may be able to offer some advice. Best wishes

  30. Carol says:

    Having read most of the above comments, I see they were all made in 2011!
    Has anything changed with regards to ‘relocation’ since then? Is Marilyn Stowe still dealing with such cases?
    My daughter and her partner presently reside in the US with their six year old son born there. Her partner has been extremely abusive, though not physically, but very ‘mentally’ and who will not accept advice needed to sort his reasons for abuse (there is a history of mental health problems in his family) my daughter has tried everything to get him help but he refuses and says the blame all lies with her. My daughter has been told she needs to get out of the US with the child, but obviously her partner has threatened to invoke The Hague on child abduction. She and her son are having to live with someone with severe mental problems (psychosis) with seemingly no chance of getting back to the U.K. and the safety of her family, friends and a place in school. She is trapped and terrified and at her wits end, me too as a mother having to witness this terrifying situation and no means of help. How then can The Hague not help parents – usually the mother – in allowing in certain cases where the child’s safety and a settled, secure future is paramount. When will things change? My daughter’s case is that she just wants to get herself, but most importantly, the child back to the U.K. safely away from father whose sole interest is (and I quote) ‘I need to protect MYSELF! From what? from who? is what I love to know. Although I am no psychiatrist, it is not so difficult to realise this man is a psychopathic narcissist and terrifying to be around. And my terror is what my daughter will do to herself, as she has no jurisdiction and therefore absolutely no protection in the United States of America! She is desperate, I am desperate and need someone to legally help her get home, away from the maniac she is presently ‘forced’ to live with, no means of financial support and if he gets his way – no home to live in. It’s a disgrace?

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