Family Law Hub

Re S [2020] EWHC 2940 (Fam)

The mother contended that her three children, aged 14, 10 and 8, had been wrongfully retained in England. She applied, pursuant to the Hague Convention 1980, for their summary return to Poland and, pursuant to Brussels IIa, for the recognition and enforcement of an order made by the Polish District Court. The father opposed the return. The parents were Polish nationals, and the children had been born in the USA, before moving to Poland. The parents had separated after the father moved to England. During a holiday in England the children had complained of poor treatment by the mother, and the father had not returned them. Mr A. Verdan QC (sitting as a deputy High Court judge) found that the children's habitual residence had remained in Poland, but that the exception under Article 13(b) had been made out, the children being at risk of physical ill-treatment and unacceptable chastisement by the mother. He would not exercise his discretion to return the children to Poland pursuant to the Hague application. Considering the second application, he noted that he had not been made aware of any authority suggesting that the court, having refused a return via the Hague Convention, should at the same hearing enforce a return via Brussels IIa, and he declined to do so. He encouraged the parties to engage in mediation.

Judgment, published: 03/03/2021

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  • An appeal was brought by a father, and separately by his three children, against the registration in 2020 of a Polish custody order from 2016, which had vested custody and care of the children with the mother in Poland. The children were currently in the care of their father and living in England. He had not returned them after a summer holiday visit in 2019. The mother had sought summary return in 2020, and the application had been refused, due to objections and risks relevant to Article 13 of the Hague Convention 1980. Cobb J allowed the appeal. He was satisfied that that the father and the children had made good their case for the court to not recognise the Polish custody order. The December 2016 order was irreconcilable with a later judgment relating to parental responsibility given in Poland in May 2021. Also, the judgment refusing summary return was "a later judgment relating to parental responsibility given in the Member State in which recognition is sought", per Article 23(e), which was irreconcilable with the December 2016 Order. If he were wrong on either of those points, he was satisfied that it would be contrary to public policy to recognise and enforce an order made in a Member State which was contrary to a finding of this court that an Article 13(b) 1980 Hague Convention exception had been made out. Accordingly, the order for registration was set aside. Judgment, 09/07/2021, free

Published: 03/03/2021

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