Family Law Hub

Jurisdiction

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  • 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
  • A hearing that had been listed for consideration of issues of contact between the father and the children, "subject to a review of the English court's position in the event that the Russian court accepts jurisdiction". There had since been a hearing of several days' duration before a court in Russia, which had clearly decided that it had jurisdiction to make substantive orders in relation to the children, that the children were habitually resident in Russia (notwithstanding that they were attending schools during term time in England), and that the children should reside with their mother at a place of their mother's choosing. In Holman J's view, he was obliged to "abstain" from exercising further jurisdiction over any matters which clearly fell within the territory of the Russian proceedings and judgment, though he noted that the father was appealing the previous order of the Family Court. With those appeals in mind, he declined to make an order permitting the mother's solicitors to release the passports: the mother had frankly said that if she were able to return with the children to Russia she would keep them there and not permit them to travel again to England until she was quite confident that she would not be "ensnared" by further legal proceedings. Judgment, 19/04/2021, free
  • A fact-finding hearing to determine whether the courts of England and Wales had jurisdiction to determine welfare issues in relation to three children. The applicant was the mother of the three children, the respondent the father. Their precise history was disputed, but both parents had come to England as asylum seekers. The mother claimed to be from Yemen and the father claimed to be from Somalia, and they had three children. One was born in Sheffield, one in Yemen, and, after the family left the UK in 2008, the third was born in either Yemen or Saudi Arabia. Ms Sarah Morgan QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, came to the view that some of the evidence placed before her had been misleading and intended to mislead. The case had unusually difficult features, caused by the passage of time, and there was no agreement between the parties even as to that which she was being invited to consider and determine. She found that the family had left (and the mother had consented to the children's departure from) England and Wales in 2008 for the purposes of a holiday and not as a permanent relocation. Immediately before leaving, the family had been habitually resident in England and Wales. Neither before nor once they had left had the mother indicated consent to a relocation. Thus there had been a wrongful removal in that the mother had consented to a holiday but not to a relocation, and/or there had been a wrongful retention when the father failed to arrange their return to England and Wales at the conclusion of the holiday. She found that the court had jurisdiction in respect of the two older children, and although the third child had never lived in or even visited the United Kingdom, jurisdiction in respect of her existed by reason of the doctrine of Parens Patriae. The matter was listed for consequential directions in consultation with Williams J. Judgment, 20/03/2021, free
  • 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

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