Increased air travel and the internet have made parental disputes over relocation more frequent and intense, Thorpe LJ said in a speech to London Metropolitan University in June.

He called for international consensus on the laws concerning relocation of children.
Moves to debate the issue of an international law of relocation are gathering momentum and a conference was held on the topic in Washington in March.

Thorpe LJ said uniformity of approach would help parents take responsible decisions about relocation and discourage them from abducting or unlawfully removing their children.

In his speech, he considered UK case law and the impact of the Human Rights Act 1998, acknowledging the arguments of fathers’ groups that times may have changed. For example, the courts take into account the idea that “the harmful impact on the mother is taken to be harmful to the child”, an idea which has been criticised by fathers’ groups as “matricentric and discriminatory”, he said.

“Given that the principle is not derived from expert evidence nor from many research studies in this jurisdiction the challenge cannot be lightly dismissed. The emergence of the principle needs to be seen in the context of social tides that were moving some forty years ago.”