• Professional News
  • 11 January 2013

What is in the best interests of the child?

The Danish High Court has held that a seven-year-old boy is to grow up in Denmark, bearing in mind the social needs of the boy as regards familiarity with his local environment and interpersonal relations. The case implies that when a parent plans to relocate to another country, the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration.

A judgement recently handed down by the Danish High Court illustrates how difficult it can be for a parent to be granted permission by the Danish courts to relocate to another country with his/her child. This is especially the case when the child’s other parent lives in Denmark and the child is most familiar with his/her local environment in Denmark and his/her interpersonal relations are primarily practiced in Denmark. In such circumstances, the best interests of the child - and not just those of the relocating parent – should be the primary consideration. Likewise, it is important that a specific proposal be prepared concerning the maintenance of future contact between the child and the non-relocating parent. In such cases, significant weight may be attached to a parent’s unsettled lifestyle.

In the case in question, the boy’s parents lived together in the Netherlands for about two years after the birth of their son. After the two year period, they moved to Denmark, where they lived for about one year. The parents subsequently separated and the boy’s mother moved to London with her son, as a result of her work. After spending less than two years in the British capital, the mother moved back to Denmark with her son.

After one year, the mother, who is a Dutch citizen, became pregnant with her new Dutch boyfriend. Therefore, she wished to move to the Netherlands, where most of her family also lives. The boy, who by now is seven years old, speaks Dutch to some extent. However, the boy’s father wanted his son to stay in Denmark and, accordingly commenced proceedings concerning the permanent residency of his son.

Following an overall assessment of the case, the Danish District Court found that the boy’s affiliation to his present environment in Denmark was greater, than the one he would achieve by moving to the Netherlands, where he had only lived during the first years of his life. Therefore, the Court determined that, in the future, the boy was to have permanent residency with his father and was thereby not to move to the Netherlands with his mother.

The High Court upheld the judgment and noted that, in the opinion of the High Court, the mother had led an unsettled life characterised by a regard for what was in her own best interests. Her decision to move to the Netherlands was deemed by the High Court to be definitive and was not going to be altered by her son staying in Denmark. The High Court determined that this conclusion supported its contention that the mother was not sufficiently able to prioritise the needs and best interests of her son.

(Judgment delivered by the High Court of Eastern Denmark on 12 July 2012 in appeal no. B-1786-12 before the 21st Division)

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