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Children

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  • The father appealed, on the basis that he was incorrectly treated as a "non-resident" parent for the purposes of s 3(2) of the Child Support Act 1991, against a regular deduction order made under s 32A of the same act, in accordance with the Child Support (Collection and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/1989), relating to alleged arrears of £2,519.86 that had allegedly arisen between 2007 and 2015. Despite repeated notices being sent to the Child Maintenance Service and, later, to the Secretary of State, there had been no response at all from the Service or from the Secretary of State. HHJ Wildblood QC accepted the father's evidence that the children had spent more time living with him during the relevant period; he had nothing from the respondents to contradict it or to explain their reasoning. On the basis of that unchallenged evidence before him, he accepted that the appeal had to be allowed for the reasons advanced by the father. He did so, and set aside the deduction order. An order for costs was made against the Secretary of State, and the sums already paid to the Service under the deduction order were to be repaid forthwith. The father asked the judge to publish the judgment to record the difficulties that he had encountered in securing a resolution of the issue. Judgment, 28/07/2021, free
  • Two young people of Spanish nationality, aged 17 and 14, applied to the court for declarations in respect of their status with a view to taking further proceedings to regularise their legal status. After being detained in France over the 2020 summer holidays as a result of applications made to the Spanish courts by the father, they were currently unable to travel outside of the jurisdiction of England and Wales for fear of their detention or retention, and the possible arrest of their mother. The applicants invited the court to consider making final orders that they would live with their mother, and they sought a new child arrangements order. Russell J DBE unhesitatingly accepted the submission that the facts of this case were exceptional, and it fell within s 9(7) of the Children Act 1989, so an order was required in respect of the older child despite her age. The circumstances of the case required an order reflecting the situation in real terms and releasing the applicants (and their mother) from any legal obligations to spend time with the father. There was no doubt that the children were habitually resident in this jurisdiction and that this court had jurisdiction over matters relating to parental responsibility for them. Judgment, 27/07/2021, free
  • This was an appeal, in the course of child arrangements proceedings, against a case management decision to exclude evidence from a fact-finding hearing where there were allegations of domestic abuse. The father's representative had raised the point that the mother's statement included allegations going beyond the five permitted in the Scott Schedule, as did other statements. The recorder noted that to permit only evidence which related to an allegation in the Scott Schedule was "a little on the narrow side", as an allegation might need to be put into context, but that it was also important to ensure that the hearing did not become unnecessarily lengthy. He had then concluded that significant sections of the mother's statement should be excluded, including her claim that that the father's violent and abusive behaviour towards the children had worsened. The mother appealed on four grounds: the recorder had been wrong to exclude the matters in the mother's sworn statement on the basis that they were irrelevant and inadmissible; wrong to exclude the professional evidence which was relevant to the child's allegations and the impact of the alleged abuse; wrong to exclude similar fact evidence, e.g. regarding the father's behaviour at work; and the recorder's conduct of the hearing had resulted in procedural fairness (a ground which was not pressed at this hearing). Judd J expressed sympathy for the recorder, who had not been responsible for any of the case management orders requiring the parties to limit their allegations to five. Nonetheless, his decision could not stand. The allegations beyond those in the Scott Schedule were neither inadmissible nor irrelevant; they were highly significant. The mother's appeal was allowed. The parents were directed to file narrative statements to be considered at the pre-trial review, alongside the mother's application to adduce evidence from doctors, her mother and the nanny. Judgment, 13/07/2021, free
  • The mother, a Sudanese national with indefinite leave to remain in the UK, applied under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court for the children to be made wards of court and for an order mandating the return of the children to the jurisdiction of England and Wales from the jurisdiction of Sudan. That application was resisted by the father, a British citizen born in Sudan. In 2017 the mother and children had travelled to Sudan, for reasons that were disputed between the parties, and the mother alleged that the children's passports had been taken from her and not returned. A 2021 passport order had required the father to deliver up the passports of the children to the Tipstaff, as well as his own. The issues for the court to determine at this final hearing were whether this was an appropriate case for the court to exercise its residual parens patriae jurisdiction; if so, whether the children should be made wards of court and a return order granted under the inherent jurisdiction; and whether the passport order should continue or be discharged. In MacDonald J's view, it was not appropriate for the court to exercise its residual parens patriae jurisdiction. The children were habitually resident in Sudan, which was the convenient forum for determination of welfare issues, and the evidence demonstrated no sufficiently compelling reason that the children required the protection of this court. The mother's application was dismissed, and the passport order was discharged. Judgment, 12/07/2021, free
  • 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

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