Thursday, January 29, 2009

Internal Relocation

According to Wall LJ ETS v BT [2009] EWCA Civ 20 is the first "internal relocation" (relocation within England and Wales) arising where there is already in existence a shared residence order to reach the Court of Appeal.

Briefly, the parents are unmarried and the mother is British, although she also has an Israeli passport. The father is Serbian, but is settled in England. Their relationship began in 1999 and ended in December 2005, when the mother left the father, taking their daughter, L, with her. During 2007 the mother's application to relocate to Israel was was refused and the judge ordered shared residence.

A second application was made this time to relocate from North London to Chew Magna. This was again refused along with the father's application for a more equal division of L's time between the parents. The judge found the mother was not entirely truthful, she had delayed telling the father about the intention to relocate, she had made a number of unilateral changes to L's care and her motivation for the proposed move is to diminish the father's relationship with their daughter.

The interesting bit is consideration of what effect, if any, does a shared residence order have and what weight should a judge give to the existence of such an order. After reviewing the relevant authorities on internal relocation there was some disagreement with the judge's approach in the judgement under appeal. Nonetheless the Court of Appeal ruled relocating was not in the child's best interest and the appeal was dismissed.

Finally, in the post script Wall LJ said something which was very similar to my mantra about it not mattering to children in ten years time a jot whether they do x or y, but whether children grow up with positive feelings about both parents is likely to stay with them forever.

Each parent represents 50% of L's gene pool. Children, moreover, learn about relationships between adults from their parents. In twenty years time it will not matter a row of beans whether or not L spent x or y hours more with one parent rather than the other: what will matter is the relationship which L has with her parents, and her capacity to understand and engage in mutually satisfying adult relationships. If she is given a distorted view of adult relationships by her parents, her own view of them will be distorted, and her own relationships with others – particularly with members of the opposite sex – will be damaged.


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