We hear a lot about child abduction cases in which one parent removes the child from this country without the other parent’s agreement. Obviously, this is a serious interference with the ability of the ‘left behind’ parent to have a relationship with the child, and there are therefore clear procedures available to that parent to deal with the matter. However, we hear much less frequently about cases in which one parent relocates with the child to another part of the country. This can amount to a similar interference, but there are far fewer reported cases on the subject.
It is therefore of particular interest when such a case is reported, as well as being informative for parents involved, or potentially involved, in such a situation.
Last week the judgment in such a case was published. The case was BB v CC (residence order), which was decided by Mr Justice Moor in the High Court in October. The case concerned an appeal by a mother against an order that required her to relocate with her three year old child from one part of the country to the other.
The facts of the case were that the parties had an arranged marriage in Pakistan in April of 2013. The mother moved from Pakistan to the United Kingdom in October of 2013, and took up residence with the father at the home of the paternal grandparents in London. They have one child, ‘RR’, who was born in 2015.
The parties separated in January 2016. The mother left the family home, taking RR with her. She made a number of serious allegations of domestic abuse against the father and his family, and in February 2016 she was placed in a refuge in the North East of England by a woman’s charity. In October of 2016 the mother obtained social housing in the North East of England.
The father then commenced proceedings regarding the child, seeking an order that RR live with him. Space prevents me from going into the details, but the court found the mother’s allegations against the father to be unfounded, and in April this year made an order providing that RR was to spend time with both of his parents. Initially, the collection and delivery was to be in Birmingham and Sheffield, with the father paying half the mother’s costs of getting to Birmingham and Sheffield. But, by the end of October of 2018, the mother was expected to relocate to reside within the area in which the father and his family reside. The judge made it clear that if the mother did not move south then there would be a further hearing, at which she would consider seriously a transfer of residence to the father.
The mother appealed, saying that she had been placed in the North of England, rather than relocating there to frustrate contact, and that exceptional circumstances are required to make an order that requires a mother to relocate from one part of the country to the other. She had made significant positive changes to her life since moving to the North East, and did not wish to come back South. She claimed that insufficient weight was given to the potential impact on her of having to relocate, and the judge had failed to consider at all the practical difficulties.
Mr Justice Moor did not agree. He concluded:
“I am … clear that the judge was entitled to say that this was an appropriate case for a shared residence order; that for that to happen this little boy had to live in one area of the country rather than the other; that she was entitled to determine that that should be the South East; that she was entitled to say that the mother should therefore move back to that area but that, if she did not do so, there would be a further hearing to decide what should then happen, when the judge would consider whether to grant the father an order that the child lives with him, which clearly was well within her mind, or possibly not. “
He could not say that the judge was wrong in the conclusions that she came to, and he therefore took the view that the appeal should be dismissed.
Technically what happened here is that the court made a child arrangements order (to use the current terminology) and, as it is entitled to do, added a condition to that order, the condition being that the mother moved back to the area in which the family home had been located. As I said earlier, an instructive case for any parents involved in one of these ‘internal relocation’ cases.
You can read the full judgment here.