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Your ex wants to move abroad with your kids: What are your rights?

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The savvy career or business woman knows that she has to keep aware of any pitfalls that could affect her personal life —  and thus impact on her business life. Sadly, one of the main culprits for that can be separation, divorce, and a tussle over where the children will live.

That might sound pessimistic, but there’s no denying divorce is a big factor worldwide.

You might think divorce rates around the ‘Anglosphere’ are high, with the US at 53%, Australia at 43% and the UK at 42%.  But Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, and Hungary are worse off with divorce rates higher than 60% and Belgium has the staggering rate of 70%. But it’s believed that the introduction of more relaxed divorce laws could see the number increase incrementally even more in the future.

This can cause considerable levels of psychological stress amongst adults and children alike, particularly in instances where one parent wants to relocate abroad with the kids. We’ll explore this in greater detail below, whilst asking what rights you have to prevent your former partner from taking your children to reside in a foreign country.

Understanding the importance of parental responsibility

In truth, your rights are largely determined by whether or not you have what is known as “parental responsibility”.  This refers to the legal right of an adult to make decisions on behalf of a child in their care, whilst the law stipulates that mothers should automatically receive this when a youngster is first born.

This can be lost if the father is given sole custody or responsibility following a divorce, however, whilst men will also automatically earn parental responsibility once they’ve tied the knot with their partner. In other instances, parents can also be granted this through an official court order, or if the man has his name registered on a child’s birth certificate.

Regardless, having parental responsibility affords you a genuine position of strength in the event of a divorce, as this usually means that your partner would need to seek your permission before relocating abroad.

This means that you can withhold your consent, although you’ll need to prepare for the fact that could trigger a legal standoff and a number of subsequent court dates as you look to settle the issue. If you haven’t earned or fought for this privilege, however, there’s nothing to stop your ex moving abroad apart from a formal court order (which would be extremely difficult to source).

How should you tackle this issue?

So long as you have parental responsibility, your ex-partner has no formal legal right to relocate overseas with your children without your agreement. However, you still need to settle the underlying issue and negotiate an amicable compromise, especially if your former spouse is required to move abroad for the purposes of work.

One of your first ports of call should be to seek out legal advice immediately, preferably from  immigration lawyers that also have a knowledge of family law and legislation. This will reaffirm your rights and enable you to access bespoke advice based on your circumstances, whilst formulating a plan of action to help you achieve your goals.

It’s also important that you maintain amicable terms with your partner, and try to liaise with them directly when attempting to strike a compromise. Whilst your legal representatives can always negotiate on your behalf if relations turn hostile, this can be extremely stressful and harmful to the psychological health of the kids involved.

In instances where your partner has already relocated abroad without your consent, you may also want to make contact with Reunite. This organisation specialises in such cases of child abduction to foreign countries, and can help you to return your kids back home.

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