Q: My ex-husband and I divorced five years ago; we have one daughter aged eight who lives with me. Things are amicable, up to a point. I have been offered a fantastic new job that would allow me to provide our daughter with a much better life, but it would mean moving about 40 miles away. The new area has better schools and housing stock, and our overall life would be improved as there are excellent facilities in the new town. However, my ex is adamant he can stop me moving – can he?
A: Congratulations on the job offer and for having kept matters amicable for such a long time. In short, no, he can’t prevent you from moving, but he could seek a Prohibited Steps Order to stop you taking your daughter out of the area you currently live in. This would be a rather extreme step to take, and the Family Court would have to be convinced that the move to the new town would not be in your daughter’s best interests.
If talking face-to-face isn’t constructive, then write to him, setting out everything in the letter; include details of potential schools and houses, the new contact arrangements you would propose, who would do the travelling, how the move would benefit your daughter, if you will be moving closer to extended family, etc. You will need to offer him reassurances that the relationship your daughter and he have won’t be affected. Try to remember that, if this has come out of the blue for him, he may be concerned about not being able to enjoy so much time with his daughter as they are currently able to so or that he is being excluded from his daughter’s life, even partially. While this may not be the case, his concerns are valid, and you will need to reassure him. You may wish to consider offering him longer stays during the school holidays so that they can enjoy uninterrupted quality time together.
If you are still unable to agree, then the next step would be family mediation to try to resolve the issues you disagree on. It is much better for everyone concerned if you are able to settle the matter between yourselves. If you're both able to reach an agreement, it is a good idea to formalise the arrangements in the Oratto Parenting Plan, which can also be used as a discussion tool to help you and your ex talk through how you would both like to continue parenting your daughter after the move has occurred.
However, if mediation is unsuccessful, then you could make an application to Court for a Specific Issue Order, which would allow you to move your daughter to the new town. Taking the matter to Court should only be a last resort. You would need to show the Court that the move would be in the best interests of your daughter and that you have proposed good, workable contact arrangements between your daughter and her father.
Hopefully, you will be able to work this out between you both and avoid going to Court entirely. It is wise to seek legal advice early on so that you are aware of the legal positions of both you and your ex. Oratto’s family law solicitors are very experienced in helping parents resolve difficult matters like this amicably and with a child-focused approach. Contact us today to arrange a free consultation with one of our advisers.
Similarly, if you have a legal question relating to divorce or any other area of law, you can submit it via our contact form, and we may answer your query in a future blog.