International Access Rights?

Resolving access rights where one parent moves with children to another country can be extremely expensive and stressful. 

The left behind parent (usually the father) often agrees to the children moving on the basis that he has certain access rights (also known as contact).  For a period, the parent who moves may stick to the agreement on contact but after a while that parent may say that the arrangements on contact/access are no longer appropriate.  The obvious reaction of the parent who is left behind is to seek to enforce the court order. 

It therefore comes as a surprise when that parent seeks legal advice and finds out that the court in the children’s home country is not necessarily bound by the original court order. 

Unless the other court is in an EU state, the English court will have regard to the original order but can consider matters afresh and make a new decision (taking into account what it considers is in the best interest of the child).   This may mean that the left behind parent has to attend court in England at great expense in order to obtain contact. 

The parent with custody may also ask the English court to review the amount of maintenance payable for the children which can cause tension between the most appropriate access/contact arrangements for the child, the appropriate level of maintenance and who should pay for the costs of contact.

Where the original order is made by an EU court, the English court is only bound by the order in certain circumstances. 

The same considerations apply to English court orders.  Therefore care needs to be taken when agreeing to a child moving abroad and the extent to which that order can be enforced in the future.

In all cases, a mirror order should be considered (effectively an identical order in the new country before a child moves) but, where that hasn’t been done, specialist advice should be taken before embarking on enforcement proceedings.

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