Legal Eagle: What happens when ex-partners move out of the area with your children?

Q: My ex-partner is threatening to move out of the area with my daughter to live with her new partner. I am worried I will lose contact with my daughter. Can I stop this from happening?
Legal dispute. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.Legal dispute. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Legal dispute. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

A: You may be able to apply to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order (PSO). A PSO prevents a person from undertaking a specific action if it appears this is not in the child’s best interests. It can also curtail a parent’s exercise of parental responsibility.

To apply for a PSO an application needs to be filed with the court together with a statement setting out the reasons why you believe the order is needed. You will have to pay a court fee unless you qualify for exemption. Once the application has been issued the court will list a First Dispute Resolution Hearing.

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If the removal of your daughter from the area appears imminent you can apply to the court on an urgent basis and it is possible an interim (temporary) order could be made even if there has not been time to notify your ex of the hearing.

If the welfare of the child demands it, an interim PSO can be applied for and obtained the same day. However, the court will have to list a return hearing when your ex can attend and put her side of things forward. 

Whether considering a PSO or any other type of order the child’s welfare is always the first priority. The Children Act 1989 at paragraph 1 sets out key issues which the court will take into account when deciding whether to grant an order.

These points are known as the Welfare Checklist and include issues such as physical, emotional and educational needs, the effect of any change in circumstances and any risk of harm to the child.

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The age of the child is also a relevant factor therefore depending on how old your daughter is, she may be able to make her own wishes and feelings clear and the court will take this into consideration.

In your situation the court is also likely to consider why your ex-partner is wanting to relocate, whether she has any family in the area she is moving to, whether her new partner poses any risk to your daughter and whether there will be any impact on the child’s schooling.

If the order is granted it is likely to be made to last for a defined period of time, for example until your daughter completed her secondary school education.

Ben Hoare Bell LLP has several specialist Family lawyers who can advise you on issues such as this. To speak to a solicitor please phone 0191 565 3112 or email [email protected]. For further information visit