Skip to content Skip to footer
Enquiries Call 0800 652 8025
man with suitcase

The impact of sport relocation in family law

The impact of a ‘professional sportsperson’ career on families is often overlooked. For instance, when a footballer transfers to a new club, they might need to relocate to another part of the country or even to a different country altogether. From a family law perspective, these transitions can have significant repercussions.

What happens if the player wishes to move abroad to pursue their career while the mother or father of their child does not want to move? Who does the child live with?  Will the child move abroad, or will the player have to commute to see their child? While transitions to new countries can bring opportunities and recognition, acknowledging and addressing off-pitch issues is equally vital for a player’s well-being, echoing the importance of timing and support in both on and off-field endeavors.

The Welfare Checklist

If an agreement cannot be reached between parents, then ultimately, in a dispute, the Court’s paramount consideration is the child’s welfare. The Court will consider the welfare checklist in the Children Act 1989 section 1(3), when determining what is in the child’s best interests. The Welfare Checklist includes:

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
  • His physical, emotional and educational needs;
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in his circumstances;
  • His age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
  • Any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  • How capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;
  • The range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.

Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss P, in the leading case of Payne v Payne, reiterated the considerations that should be in the forefront of the mind of the Judge trying a difficult relocation case. The considerations (which shall be considered alongside the Welfare Checklist) are:

  • The welfare of the child is always paramount.
  • There is no presumption created by the Children Act 1989, section 13(1)(b) in favour of the applicant parent.
  • The reasonable proposals of the parent with the residence order wishing to live abroad carry great weight.
  • Consequently, the proposals have to be scruitinised with care and the court needs to be satisfied that there is a genuine motivation for the move and not the intention to bring contact between the child and the other parent to an end.
  • The effect upon the applicant parent and the new family of the child of a refusal of leave is very important.
  • The opportunity for continuing contact between the child and the parent left behind may be very significant.

If the Court decides that the child should not relocate, the footballer will need to make some difficult decisions; whether that be to leave their family behind and commute to visit, or to look to transfer to a closer club to home – as was the case with Robin Van Persie, the Dutch striker who left Arsenal for Manchester United in 2012 as he wanted to live closer to his family; and Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan striker who left Liverpool for Barcelona in 2014, as he wanted to be closer to his family in Spain.

Child Arrangements Order

Once the Court has decided upon the relocation, the court will often make a Child Arrangements Order that lasts until the child is 18 (unless the court orders an earlier date) and regulates the arrangements for a child that relates to any of the following:

  • With whom the child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact;
  • When the child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person;
  • Direct contact between the child and the person named in the order;
  • Overnight contact;
  • Supervised contact; and
  • Indirect contact through letters or cards.

In reality, there are many factors to consider when transferring to a new club and players often find it difficult to navigate the off-pitch legal aspects, such as Harry Kane, when he moved to Bayern Munich in Germany, who told TNT SportsIt’s been difficult. It was my first move in my career, so I probably didn’t realise what went into it. Not only the new team, but the personal, the family – I’ve got four kids”. It is therefore vital to obtain specialist legal advice.

Speak to an expert

At Clarke Willmott, we can help you navigate the impact a relocation may have on you and your family, particularly where a dispute arises, and how to navigate the potential of long-distance relationships with children in a dispute.

If you need legal advice with relocation or navigating the family law challenges ahead of your transfer or relation, please email Paige Atherton or contact her on 0345 209 1609.

Posted:

Your key contact

Paige Atherton

Trainee Solicitor

Manchester
Paige is a Trainee Solicitor in the family law team at our Manchester office. Paige assists clients following the breakdown of a marriage with matters including divorce, settling financial terms and arrangements for children.
View profile for Paige Atherton >

More on this topic

Sport

The impact of sport relocation in family law

The impact of a ‘professional sportsperson’ career on families is often overlooked. For instance, when a footballer transfers to a new club, they might need to relocate to another part of the country or even to a different country altogether.
Read more on The impact of sport relocation in family law

Looking for legal advice?