There is no doubt that COVID-19 has affected us all in one way or another but lockdown will have been extremely difficult for parents whose relationships have broken down and have been considering separation for some time, or alternatively separated parents whose extended families reside overseas.
Perhaps lockdown will have given families time to consider issues in their relationships and the prospect of separation. In some cases parents may be considering plans “for when this is all over”. For parents who are not from Northern Ireland, plans to separate may come with the added difficulty of wishing to relocate overseas.
If a parent wishes to move out of the jurisdiction with children, the other parent must provide their consent, failing which the relocation will need to be adjudicated upon by the Court. A Relocation Order is an extremely draconian Order for the Court to make and so the Court considers these types of applications very carefully.
When deciding upon such an application, the Court will look at the Welfare Principle and the best interests of the children. In particular the Court will consider the education, health and welfare prospects available for the children and also very importantly, what level of contact can be maintained with the non-resident parent.
The impact of COVID-19 is very likely to affect decisions in this regard. International travel will undoubtedly decrease for even the most frequent travellers, making contact arrangements more difficult. In addition airline fares are likely to increase substantially which may reduce the frequency a child can visit the non-resident parent. Parents may also have concerns about travelling and the greater risk of exposure to infection along with the added complications of quarantine restrictions on arrival.
If you are considering relocation or concerned about a possible relocation application please do not hesitate to contact our Family and Matrimonial Team on 028 321 863.