Around 1200 families each year are affected by a situation where the parent with care (normally the mother) wishes to leave the UK taking their children with them.
Often the child is too young to express his/her views let alone have those views determine whether leave is given to the mother to remove the child.
Sometimes the child objects entirely to the move but the mother is still able to remove the child, away from his/her father and extended family, school and life.
The secrecy of the family courts stops us from finding out exactly what happens to the families involved but it is clear that children generally need and want both their parents in their lives and ae much more likely to suffer long term damage if this is not possible.
I think that there should be a law that places a bar to international relocation with children of a family until such point that the child is deemed competent and wishes to go.
Until the child is competent, the presumption should be that it would be in the child's best interests to remain in the UK – where they were born and raised, where there extended family and father are, where they go to school and have a life – as the least disruptive and best option for their future wellbeing.
There should be an assumption that the child's best interests are served by regular staying contact with both parents.
This application of the precautionary principle might result in a parent wishing to relocate anyway – without the child. But if it is clear from the outset that they won't be able to easily take the children of a family with them, then perhaps they would adjust their own life choices before the situation arises.
This leads to one last point, there should be a legal assumption that, where separated mothers and fathers both provide care under a shared residence and where there is no doubt that either parent could meet the child's education, physical, psychological and emotional needs, that should one parent wish to relocate to another country, then the child lives with the parent who remains in the UK.
Get rid of the Payne v Payne in the lives of thousands or children who are threatened with leave to remove and forcibly removed from the UK and narrow the judicial discretion that allows 95% of mothers who apply to remove UK-born children from the country.
Why is this idea important?
Becuase it is important to stop children being removed from the UK by one parent as this cannot be in the child's best interests. It often means a major life disruption and an end to their relationship with fathers who cannot afford to pay the international travel costs or who are excluded by hostile mothers and mothers who alienate children against their fathers.
So many children lose touch with their fathers – fathers who can care just as well for their children as their mothers.
If you start by assuming its best for them to stay in the UK until they are old enough to decide whether they want to go for themselves, this would not happen.