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  • An application was brought for return orders from Saudi Arabia under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court. The central factual issue was the question of abandonment, and the alleged stranding of the mother and the children in Saudi Arabia. The mother's case was that she wished to return to the United Kingdom but was unable to, and that the father had engineered this situation. The father said that the mother had settled in Saudi Arabia. She also made allegations of domestic abuse, which HHJ Mark Rogers found to be credible. He also found that the husband's departure from Saudi Arabia, taking the family's passports, was a response to the family breakdown and his desire to isolate his wife and weaken her position. She was stranded in Saudi Arabia, against her will, in circumstances brought about in part, if not in whole, by the father. The children were not in full-time education, and had no access to proper healthcare, and the judge came to the conclusion that they were not habitually resident in Saudi Arabia. The children were British and he was satisfied they required the court's protection and that subsequent matters should be dealt with here. Orders would be required to secure the return of the children to the United Kingdom. Judgment, 22/09/2021, free
  • The 15-year-old daughter applied for the release of her own Russian and Greek passports, currently held by the mother's solicitors pursuant to a previous order, so that she could travel for about three weeks with her maternal grandmother to Barnaul in Russia. The father opposed the application. In Holman J's view, the risk of non-return was a low one. The daughter was old enough and mature enough to understand the gravity of a solemn promise given to a judge and to her father, and the gravity of breaking it. Formal undertakings would be given by both the mother and the grandmother which would carry sanctions if broken. The mother's passport would be lodged, together with that of the daughter's sibling, so that if the daughter did not return from Russia, there would be no question of the mother and sibling travelling there to join her. The risk was far outweighed by the benefits to her of the proposed trip and her own strong wish to travel there. The trip would therefore be permitted and the daughter's passports released. Judgment, 20/09/2021, free
  • The father appealed against the dismissal of his application under the 1980 Hague Convention for the summary return of his eight-year-old daughter to Poland. The judge had determined that there was a grave risk that returning her to Poland would expose her to physical or psychological harm. The father argued that the judge had failed to apply the correct legal principles; wrongly made or purported to make findings of fact; wrongly determined that the Polish authorities would not be able to protect the child following a return to Poland; and made a flawed decision in respect of her objections to a return. Moylan LJ found that there had been no analysis in the judgment of the child's circumstances were she to return to Poland nor of why or whether those circumstances would potentially expose her to a grave risk of harm, as required by Article 13(b). The sole focus in that section of the judgment had been on the allegations about past events. He concluded that the appeal had to be allowed. It would have been preferable, he said, if the court had been able to determine the application, but it was not in a position to undertake the broad analysis required, in particular in respect of how the discretion to make a return order should be exercised in the light of the judge's conclusion that the child objected to returning. Newey LJ and Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, agreed. The appeal was allowed and the matter was remitted to be reheard, as soon as could be arranged. Judgment, 18/09/2021, free
  • Both parents lived in England. The mother had taken their three-year-old daughter to India in March 2019, and returned without her, leaving the child with the maternal grandparents. Though born in England, the daughter was not yet a British citizen. In April 2021, the father had applied under the inherent jurisdiction for a wardship order and a return order. This hearing was to determine whether the court had jurisdiction (including the question of habitual residence), and whether the father's delay in issuing proceedings was fatal to his application. Peel J concluded that the child had continued to be habitually resident in England and Wales and had been so at the date of the father's application. He noted that the mother had offered very little evidence about the child's situation in India. As to delay, that would be a factor in considering whether wardship and return orders should be made, but it did not entitle the court to strike out the claim unless the prospects of success had been so hopeless as to justify the exercise of case management powers in such a profoundly draconian way. Judgment, 18/09/2021, free
  • Both parents were British citizens with Overseas Citizens of India status, and both had been living in India. One day before the first court hearing in child welfare proceedings brought by the father, the mother had flown their five-year-old son to England. The father now applied under the court's inherent jurisdiction for the summary return of their son to India, and asserted that this was a "hot pursuit" case. The application was opposed by the mother, who alleged domestic abuse and coercive behaviour. Cobb J reached the clear conclusion that it was in the boy's best interests to be returned to India forthwith, and for his future to be determined in the courts there. He was habitually resident in India, while his situation in England was at best transitory and fragile; for example, he was not attending school here. In Cobb J's judgement, the mother's clandestine and unilateral action in bringing the boy to England had been primarily prompted by her wish to avoid engaging in family court proceedings in India. The allegations of domestic abuse had been laid before the Indian court in the child welfare proceedings there. In his view, the risk of harm to the mother from the alleged abuse could be appropriately mitigated by the protective measures offered by the father, the fact that she could return to live with her parents, and the availability in India of civil law process (the equivalent of non-molestation proceedings). He was satisfied that the Indian court was appropriately seised of child welfare proceedings regarding the child. Judgment, 31/08/2021, free

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