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Practitioners' views on children's welfare in relocation disputes: comparing approaches in England and New Zealand [2011] CFLQ 178

Date:8 SEP 2011

Different countries have different approaches to relocation disputes, with some described as pro-relocation, some anti-relocation, and some in between. The law in England and Wales is generally considered pro-relocation, while New Zealand's approach, although formally neutral, is generally considered anti-relocation. Crucially, though, both jurisdictions place the welfare and best interests of the children concerned at the core of relocation law. This article draws on qualitative interviews with judges, lawyers and welfare advisors in these two jurisdictions to explore the reality of relocation disputes under the two systems. To do this, participants were asked to assess three hypothetical case-studies, which represented a range of issues which arise in relocation disputes. Both the analytical approach and the outcomes predicted by practitioners in the three cases varied between the two countries, with New Zealander practitioners generally less favourable to relocation than their counterparts in England and Wales. This article presents these findings and discusses what might be learnt from them about the different interpretations of the welfare principle in the two countries. This discussion is linked to the recent calls for a more unified international approach to relocation law, and the difficulties which may arise from attempting to base such an approach on the welfare principle.

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