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Expat child custody laws 'need changing'

Source: Expatriate Healthcare - Sat 3rd Sep 2011

Many Brits may be affected if the laws relating to custodial parents taking children with them when relocating abroad are altered.

This legislation is "desperately in need of both clarification and change", Divorce Aid member and International Family Law Group managing partner Ann Thomas said.

Currently, there is "too great a bias" towards the wishes of the primary residential parent, she explained.

This decision must be "about the child" and the primary concerns should not be towards fathers and mothers, regardless of whether someone might have "better work opportunities" in another nation or if they can "join a lover or new spouse".

The parent they live with is only a small part of a young person's life, with issues such as religion, food, friends, allegiances, social activities, schooling, climate, sport, language and the home environment some of the multitude of aspects that can be affected during a divorce and repatriation.

In cases where a foreign national moves to another country and has a child with a wife or cohabiting partner, "particular sympathies" exist if the relationship breaks down and the individual discovers they are isolated, Ms Thomas claimed.

Focusing on "the living arrangements with either the mother or the father" is one of the most common errors the law makes, with it often ignoring where the child has established their identity.

This "must be taken more actively into account", she continued.

Furthermore, it is still uncertain in many cases as to whether or not the court will permit relocation, the expert added.

A burden of proof supporting claims that a youngster would be happier when taken away from their home environment ought to be provided by the parent that wishes to move them, rather than this guardian being given the benefit of the law, she asserted.

The British government also notes that many foreign countries do not have state funded education or English-speaking schools, but claims that "children generally make friends and adapt" quite quickly when settling down overseas.

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