Child Relocation Cases – The Detail Needs To Be Determined Too
The Mother made an application for permission to return to Brazil with her three children between the ages of 7 and 10. The Father was Portuguese and prior to separation, the family had lived in London. The Father objected to the removal.
At first instance the Court determined that the Mother should be granted permission to move to Brazil with the children. The CAFCASS officer had, in her written report recommended that permission should be denied on the basis of the children’s strong relationship with the Father but in oral evidence, the CAFCASS officer rowed back from this position and determined that the case was finely balanced and was ultimately a matter for the Court to decide.
The Father appealed primarily focusing on the approach that the Judge took to the children’s relationship with him, mainly that the Judge failed to give sufficient priority to that relationship and failed to analyse and evaluate the real prospect of that relationship being maintained through direct and indirect contact.
The Court of Appeal refused the Father’s application.
Interestingly, the Judge at first instance had not determined the specifics of the move, for example what the arrangements would be for the children to see their Father; the Judge left this for the parties to determine. The Court of Appeal determined that given that the parents were unable to communicate with each other, a detailed order determining the arrangements for the Father to see the children, the financial arrangements and so forth should be determined by the Court.
In many relocation cases, once the Court has determined whether permission to relocate is granted, parties are invited to then agree the arrangements for the children in terms of how they will spend time with both parents. Inevitably the decision has gone against one party and it is extremely difficult for the parties to then try to agree these arrangements. Whilst it is normally better for parties to agree the detail of the relocation so that some element of control of the arrangements can remain rather than the Court may a further decision, this Judgment recognises that this is not always possible and that the Court may also need to determine the specifics.