Relocation: research and the 'missing key'
Payne remains good law but the landscape is moving. The case of Re W makes it clear that in primary carer cases Payne will still apply so that, in that case, the primary carer mother's best interests outweighed other considerations like the emerging relationship between the father and children. However, it also acknowledges the need to have research on the outcomes for children in relocation disputes. The case of Re K demonstrates that in shared care cases the guidance in Payne does not apply and the child's best interests will determine the relocation question. Finding the answer to the question of what might be in the best interests of children in relocation cases where the care is shared may be informed by reference to the research evidence which guided the Family Justice Review in making its decision not to recommend the introduction of a legislative shared care presumption but which, even in the interpretation of the same data, is subject to different views. What of the research into the outcomes for children in relocation disputes (those who did, and those who did not, relocate as a result of the decisions in their cases) to which Wall P referred in Re W? Although fraught with difficulties in execution, this specific, targeted research on the outcomes for children in relocation dispute cases is urgently required in order to provide the ‘missing key' to this issue - the detailed information which decision-makers (including parents) need to guide their choices in relocation disputes whether they involve primary or shared care.
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