The complexities of Permanent Leave to Remove – Experiences of a family lawyer

Posted on Wednesday February 12, 2020

By Manisha Hurchurn, Associate at Mackrell.Solicitors

As family lawyers we speak to separated parents year-round regarding situations where they wish to take their child/children on holiday but the other parent objects to the child travelling.

This can be a challenging time for a family and if a proposed holiday is imminent, emotions will be running high.

When helping a family navigate an application for one parent to permanently remove their child to another country, the challenges and emotions become concentrated with the added ingredient of one parent being, inevitably, left behind.

In a recent case, Mackrell.Solicitors acted for a father who was faced with an application by the mother to permanently remove his infant son to Spain.

Both were young, first time parents and supported by their respective families, both practically and financially.

Whilst mediation was spoken of, the parties were unable to agree the terms of discussion; the mother simply wanted to mediate the terms of her relocation with the child, whereas our client wanted to explore alternative arrangements in the hope of being able to maintain his close relationship with his son in England. It became clear that an impasse had been reached.

The mother inevitably launched her application and was steadfast in sustaining her position. Our client genuinely believed that it was in his son’s welfare to remain in England and, therefore, was left with no option but to contest the application.

An expert -independent social worker- was jointly instructed to prepare a report with recommendations as to whether or not the mother should be granted leave to permanently remove the child to Spain.

In order to do so, the expert travelled to Spain in order to assess and analyse the provisions the mother had made for the child there.

In doing so, the expert applied a global holistic approach to determine what would be best for the child at the time.

In the background, the parties’ working relationship suffered as a result of their competing personalities and attitudes towards the situation.

In many of these applications, parents will often find themselves in similar situations but the stakes are extremely high and such contention is par for the course; thus, an empathetic and grounded approach by the lawyers involved is crucial.

The expert recommendation was for the mother to be granted permission to permanently remove the parties’ son to Spain, which was, quite understandably, very upsetting for our client.

However, in light of the individual facts of the case, such as the mother being very young and reliant on her parents who lived in Spain and the child being a baby and capable of adjustment, our client took a pragmatic and child centric view; he agreed to allow his son to move to Spain, subject to the normal safeguards being in place to protect his ability to spend time with his son.

The emphasis on how difficult it was for our client, and indeed any parent faced with such a predicament, to make such a concession, is great.

These applications change the course of the lives of the parents and the child forever and we were completely mindful of the magnitude of the situation, as lawyers should be when helping clients through such tenuous periods in their lives.

Happily, the parties were able to negotiate the terms of the relocation and our client’s time arrangements with his son and, ultimately, they avoided an unpleasant final hearing, where the decision would be in the hands of the Judge.

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