Family Law Hub

Jurisdiction

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  • An appeal concerning the extent of the obligation upon the court in England and Wales to enforce a foreign order in relation to children. The two children, a girl aged 16 and a boy aged 13, had lived in England and Wales for most of their lives and had been habitually resident here for at least six years. The judgment under appeal concerned applications by their father to enforce orders of the Spanish court granting him custody, and an application by the mother, made when the English court had jurisdiction, for an order that the children would live with her. The English court had refused recognition of the Spanish orders on the basis that they were irreconcilable with its own order for the children to live with their mother. In the view of Peter Jackson LJ, the judge had been right to find that she had the power to make welfare orders on the basis that the children were habitually resident in England and Wales and that the Spanish court was no longer seised. She was also right to not accept the father's argument that the recognition and enforcement proceedings should take priority. He expressed some reservations about her approach to the welfare assessment, but was not persuaded that her ultimate decision was wrong, and any procedural irregularity, whether or not it was described as serious, had not led to injustice. Moylan and Phillips LJJ agreed. The appeal was dismissed. Judgment, 22/01/2021, free
  • The mother was English, and the father was Libyan, with a British passport. They had three children, aged 3, 5 and 6. The mother had left Libya in 2018 but the children had remained there. She now applied under the inherent jurisdiction for orders that the court should protect the children, invoking "the ancient parens patriae jurisdiction": the Crown's obligation to protect those who are unable to protect themselves. She had not raised this in previous unsuccessful proceedings, relying instead on habitual residence and/or Article 10. Had this been a case about money, Mostyn J said, the failure to advance the parens patriae case first time round would not have been justified and therefore the current case would have stopped for Henderson abuse. However, because this was a case about children, he decided that this should instead be considered as part of the overall discretionary exercise as to whether the jurisdiction should be exercised. He found that the circumstances in this case were not sufficiently compelling to require the court to exercise its protective jurisdiction. The evidence showed that an order for repatriation which sought the assistance of the Libyan authorities would be futile. It did not show there had been a major deterioration in the security situation in Libya since the relocation to Libya, to which the wife had consented, nor since the previous order had been made, such that would justify it being set aside. The mother's application was dismissed. Mostyn J urged the father to allow the mother to have meaningful contact with her children. Judgment, 20/01/2021, free
  • 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
  • A four-year-old girl with British citizenship had been taken to Egypt, and the court had to determine whether she had been habitually resident in England and Wales before then and thus wrongfully removed, and, if she had not, whether the court had jurisdiction to order her summary return. The father contended that the removal was pursuant to the terms of an order made in Beirut. Both parents were Lebanese nationals, and both were currently in England, the child having been left with family members of the father. The mother had accused the father of domestic violence. MacDonald J was satisfied that the child had been habitually resident in this jurisdiction, and that the court retained jurisdiction under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court. The daughter was a British citizen and both parents were here and intended to remain here, making this the appropriate forum for determining the welfare issues. Returning the daughter from Egypt would create the best chance of her resuming contact with her mother, and there was no one in Egypt with parental responsibility for her. She should be returned from Egypt. The existence of the Beirut order did not prevent this. Judgment, 17/03/2020, free

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