International Relocation and Family Law

Great news, you just got transferred to the New York office from London. Your divorce is settled, the child arrangements are in place, everything is fine and dandy. But what happens to your child arrangements when you live in the Big Apple? Without planning, the situation may unravel.

Child maintenance

Generally, child maintenance is handled by agreement, the child maintenance formula and/or in rare cases, the involvement of the courts. For high earners, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) may be of limited application, if you earn above £156,000 gross, the CMS cannot touch your additional income.

You may have compromised this in some way by agreement, but what if that factors in overnight staying contact which no longer takes place? This could precipitate a challenge to the current arrangements and your ex may no longer be happy with the arrangements you had agreed.

As soon as you leave the country, the CMS no longer has any power. Instead, any disagreements are regulated by discussions, compromise, or litigation.

The courts in this country will gain the power to make an order if you live abroad. Exactly how this plays out is discretionary, and there is no clear formula that is applied. However, broadly speaking for incomes of around £156,000 gross, the CMS formula is likely to apply. This may also apply to incomes up to £650,000 gross, but above that sum a more discretionary approach is taken.

So, there is no simple answer to this question and advice will undoubtedly be needed.

Child arrangements

The law is clear, there is no relationship between the financial settlement and child arrangements. While the law may be clear, that is not always the case in reality. Often, disagreements regarding finances spill over into child arrangements rightly or wrongly.

Clearly, if you were seeing your children frequently while you lived in this country, the starting point is that you should continue to play a role in their life in the future. Once again though the devil is in the detail and plainly if you relocate, there will have to be some adjustment in terms of the future arrangements.

In all cases in respect of child arrangements, the welfare of children is paramount. The courts will be at pains to promote a relationship between both parents all things being equal and provided there is no reason not to do so such as domestic abuse, substance misuse etc. but how that manifests in reality is highly variable.

Great emphasis is placed on what arrangements can be agreed between the parents, because the stresses of going to court are huge. However, there are situations in which this is justified, if one party is resistant for example, to children leaving the country to spend time with a parent abroad. The presence of a new partner can also influence this and if the two coincide then there are potential problems ahead.

Again, the way to mitigate this and avoid the worst excesses of a tug of war is an early intervention with expert legal advice.

If you are contemplating relocating and would like to discuss the implications, we would be happy to assist. Often early planning can clarify exactly what the issues are and how they can be resolved ahead of time, rather than crossing your fingers and hoping for the best after the event.

If you would like to know more about any of the issues raised, please contact one of our team of expert lawyers to discuss this further.


Family Law in the City

Tel: 020 4579 5360

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