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F v F 2016 GWD 9-173 – Relocation of children to Australia allowed

3rd May 2016

The case deals with one of the most difficult questions that can be posed to a Sheriff or Judge – whether a child should be allowed to relocate with one parent with the consequent impact on the relationship with the parent who remains in the jurisdiction of origin. It is now settled law that the only justification for such a move is that it is in the best interests of the child. This makes it sound very straightforward. However what is in a child’s best interests is made up of a significant number of factors, all of which need to be weighed up and the overall picture then assessed – a task which is far from straightforward. In this case the question was particularly hard on the basis the relocation was from Scotland to Australia and thus ongoing contact would be severely affected. However the circumstances of the case were fairly unique. One of the two children involved had displayed sexually inappropriate behaviour.  The Sheriff found that the father had not disclosed episodes of such inappropriate behaviour that occurred in his care and he also found the police and social workers had failed to take necessary steps to address the child’s behaviour. Perhaps most importantly for the Sheriff the child had been irrevocably stigmatised as details of his behaviour had found their way into the public domain in the area in which he lived. On that basis and given the mother, who was Australian, would have family support along with better paid employment in Australia, the Sheriff found that it was better for the children to move. The stability of their mother and the departure from the area where one of the children had been stigmatised had to outweigh the importance of regular contact with the father and his family, which could, in any event, still take place by SKYPE/phone etc.

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