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  • The three-year-old daughter was a British citizen who had lived with the maternal grandmother in India since 2018, after the mother returned to England without her. The father had applied for summary return under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court. The mother had applied for a specific issue order for "permission to change jurisdiction of the child", which Mostyn J took to be an application for a declaration that the child was habitually resident in India. A preliminary issue arose regarding whether the court had jurisdiction in the case. Mostyn J found as a fact that the daughter was now habitually resident in India and thus there was no jurisdiction in this case under Brussels II article 8. He also found as a fact that at no time up to 26 August 2020 had the mother unequivocally accepted that the English court had jurisdiction to deal with parental responsibility issues concerning her daughter. In his judgment, it would be wholly unprincipled, and a wrong exercise of the court's powers, for him to make orders on the father's application pursuant to the High Court's inherent powers in circumstances where the father had not established jurisdiction under either Brussels II or sections 1–3 of the Family Law Act 1986. His judgment was that the jurisdiction of the court depended on the territorial reach of Brussels II article 10. A question was referred to the Court of Justice for an urgent preliminary ruling: "Does Article 10 of Brussels 2 retain jurisdiction, without limit of time, in a member state if a child habitually resident in that member state was wrongfully removed to (or retained in) a non-member state where she, following such removal (or retention), in due course became habitually resident?" Pending receipt of the answer to the question the proceedings would be stayed. Judgment, 09/11/2020, free
  • In wardship proceedings, the mother alleged that she and the children (aged 8, 4 and 3) had been victims of transnational abandonment. This was denied by the father, whose case was that the parties had made a consensual decision to relocate as family to Pakistan. He contended that the courts of England and Wales did not have jurisdiction in respect of the children; alternatively, that they should not exercise any jurisdiction because welfare decisions could more conveniently be made in Pakistan. Circumstances meant that the case had to be adjourned, but Mr Richard Harrison QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, considered the situation as it stood to be one in which the children were likely to be suffering from emotional harm. It was not tolerable for them to continue to be separated from their parents. It was clear to him that the essence of the mother's case was likely to be correct. The removal of the children to Pakistan had been procured on the basis of a deception, and was thus in breach of the mother's rights of custody, and a wrongful removal for the purposes of Article 10 of Brussels IIa. Having been the primary carer throughout the children's lives, the mother was the person best placed to meet the children's emotional needs. He ordered their immediate return to this jurisdiction. Judgment, 25/09/2020, free
  • The Court of Appeal had decided that the daughter must be distanced entirely from a cult with which the mother was involved. The mother had said she would renounce the cult, speak to a therapist and consult a dietician in respect of the child, but the Court of Appeal had found that her undertakings wholly failed to acknowledge the change in approach required were she to maintain care of the child. The case had been remitted to the Family Division for further consideration. At this hearing, Williams J found that the mother's witness statement did not paint a persuasive picture of a significant change in attitude. There was almost no engagement with the harm caused to the child, the process leading to that harm, or the damaging nature of the beliefs and practices of the cult. Were the child to remain in the mother's care, the process of estrangement would continue and the child's relationship with the father would be terminated. The child would live with her father and spend such time with her mother as the father might agree in consultation with the independent social worker involved in the case. Judgment, 20/07/2020, free
  • An application brought by the applicant to rectify, as he saw it, a decree of divorce granted in 1997, in relation to a 1994 marriage in London. The hearing proceeded in the absence of the former wife, who had asserted that they were still married as a result of a prior 1993 ceremony involving the same couple in Madrid. Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, was satisfied that the earlier marriage had been a valid one. His order, made under FPR rule 4.1(6), would record that the marriage dissolved in 1997 was the true legal marriage between the couple, namely that celebrated in Madrid on 25 May 1993, and not the later English marriage which had no legal impact on their status. Judgment, 04/06/2020, free
  • The Attorney General appealed from a decision to pronounce a decree nisi of nullity following a marriage ceremony which the parties had known was of no legal effect. The petitioner and respondent had reached an agreed settlement, so arguments on matters of law were made on behalf of the first intervener, a petitioner in separate nullity proceedings. The issues were whether there could be ceremonies or other acts which do not create a marriage, even a void marriage, within the scope of section 11 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973; and if there could be, whether this had been such a ceremony, currently described as a non-marriage, or whether instead, as Williams J had decided, it had created a void marriage. Sir Terence Etherton MR (the Master of the Rolls), King LJ DBE and Moylan LJ set aside the judge's order as there was, in this case, no ceremony in respect of which a decree of nullity could be granted pursuant to the provisions of section 11. The judge's approach was supported by neither the European Convention on Human Rights nor the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1990. Judgment, 28/05/2020, free

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