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  • The father applied for the child's summary return to Australia. The mother, who was deaf and had a cochlear implant due for replacement, relied on a defence under Article 13(b) of the 1980 Hague Convention. Submissions on her behalf focused on the father's criminal convictions, for which he had been placed on the sex offenders register. Hayden J noted that it was an established precept of child safeguarding that where, as here, a convicted offender failed to acknowledge guilt and/or sought to minimise his behaviour, such actions were to be generally regarded as indicative of continuing risk. The mother made allegations of coercive and controlling behaviour against him, but appeared to have a very poor grasp of the risk that he could present to her children. Hayden J was comfortably satisfied that the evidence established a grave risk of serious harm to a child. In Australia, her isolation, vulnerability, challenges with communication and incomplete understanding of the risk the father represented would all leave her exposed to the manipulative and abusive behaviour of which he was accused. The defence provided by Article 13(b) was established and the application was dismissed. Judgment, 26/05/2021, free
  • Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 provided for the making of an application for financial relief following an overseas divorce. By s 13, no application could be made without the leave of the court, and by s 13(1), no leave was to be granted unless the court considered that there were substantial grounds for making such an application. In this case, the wife appealed against a 2019 order of Cohen J, where he had set aside his own ex parte order for leave and on re-consideration of her application had refused to grant leave. The Court of Appeal considered the proper approach to an application made for the grant of leave and to any subsequent application to set aside an ex parte order for leave. In King LJ's view, there had been no basis for the judge to conclude that he had not properly considered the legislative purpose of Part III: the alleviation of the adverse consequences of no, or no adequate, financial provision being made by a foreign court in a situation where there were substantial connections with England. Rather, having heard argument on both sides, he had regretted granting leave. David Richards and Moylan LJJ agreed. The wife's appeal against the order setting aside leave for her to make an application for financial relief was allowed. It was therefore unnecessary to consider whether the judge had been wrong in refusing leave when he reconsidered the application. As to the impact of Brexit upon s 16(3), there were likely to be few if any cases outstanding to which it would apply and future Part III applications would be considered without reference to the Maintenance Regulation. Judgment, 14/05/2021, free
  • The father applied for his six-year-old daughter's summary return from England to Russia under the 1980 Hague Convention, alleging that the mother had wrongly removed or retained her. The mother defended the application, arguing that the father had consented to the daughter's removal from Moldova to England, and that the child had become habitually resident in England and Wales. The court had to determine the date of wrongful removal or wrongful retention, habitual residence, settlement, the Article 13(b) defence of grave risk of harm, and, if relevant, the exercising of the court's discretion whether or not to order return. Also whether, when parties had agreed to the retention of a child abroad for an identifiable period of time, and the left behind parent resiled from the agreement and demanded the return of the child before the expiry of that period, the refusal or failure of the travelling parent to comply with the demand rendered the child's retention wrongful at that time. Poole J found that parts of the father's evidence had been inconsistent, sinister, incoherent, difficult to accept and deliberately misleading. The removal of the daughter from Russia had indeed been in breach of the father's custody rights, but Poole J rejected without hesitation his evidence that there had been an agreement to return her there. There was no wrongful removal when the daughter was brought to England in 2018, and no wrongful retention until January 2019, by which point she was habitually resident in England. Had it arisen, Poole J would have exercised his discretion to refuse to return the child to Russia, and he would have found that the Article 13(b) defence of grave risk of harm or intolerability was established, one reason being that the mother was not a Russian citizen and would have little to no security or stability there upon return. He dismissed the father's application for summary return. Judgment, 14/05/2021, free
  • The American father, living in the USA, had applied for an order for his four-year-old son's immediate return there under the 1980 Hague Convention. The son had dual nationality and lived with his mother, a British national, in England. The son had been born in England. A marital settlement agreement had been agreed to the effect that the mother and child would relocate to the UK, with the child spending his school breaks with his father in the US, a minimum of three visits. The pandemic and quarantine restrictions had prevented this from happening as planned, and the father had filed a petition with the Circuit Court of his state for contempt and to modify custody. Mostyn J noted that "it is elementary that the 1980 Hague Convention can only be invoked where the child's habitual residence has not changed to the new state prior to the alleged act of removal or retention". The question of habitual residence was one of pure fact. In this case, there was no possible basis for saying that the removal was not lawful, and Mostyn J was completely satisfied that the mother had not harboured a dishonest intention to later deprive the father of his spending time rights. There had been no wrongful removal, nor any wrongful retention, and the Convention was not engaged because the son had plainly acquired habitual residence in England by the time in question. The father's application was dismissed. Judgment, 02/05/2021, free
  • The Swiss father applied under Article 8 of the 1996 Hague Convention for jurisdiction to be transferred to Switzerland, where the two-year-old daughter currently lived with him. The application was opposed by the British mother and the guardian. It was agreed that the daughter had been abducted from England in June 2020, when the paternal grandparents had paid for a private jet to take the father and daughter to Switzerland. The mother had not seen the daughter in person since August 2020. Arbuthnot J found that the court could not transfer these proceedings under Brussels IIa, and Article 8 of the Hague Convention did not apply in a case of wrongful removal unless the conditions in Article 7(1)(a) or (b) had been met. In her judgment, the courts here were better placed to determine the daughter's best interests. Delay was also a significant factor: this was a very young child, and her living arrangements should be determined much sooner than Swiss proceedings would allow. If there was a discretion to transfer under Article 8, Arbuthnot J would not have exercised it. There was no alternative power to transfer under the Family Law Act, and if there were, she would have exercised her discretion to not transfer the proceedings. The question of contact would be decided separately. Judgment, 29/04/2021, free

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