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Hague Convention 1980

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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
  • 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 father was Japanese, and the mother was Polish Canadian, currently living in England. The father applied under Article 21 of the 1980 Hague Convention for a contact order in respect of his 11-year-old son. There had been weekly telephone calls but no direct contact since 2018. The father was in substantial arrears of a maintenance pending suit order, and might face enforcement proceedings if returning to England. He proposed that contact should take place immediately in Japan. The mother's position was that it should take place initially in England before possibly, subject to the child's wishes, progressing to Japan. The Family Court Adviser raised the option of contact in France. In Peel J's view, it would be premature to make an order for contact in Japan. It would be against the son's wishes, and it was too soon to embark on such a major step. Although Japan was a Hague Convention signatory, he had no evidence as to the speed with which a return order would be made and implemented there, and the consequences for the son of being separated from his primary carer for a substantial period would be highly damaging. Peel J ordered that contact should take place in England, at first for one week in each of the summer and Christmas 2021 school holidays. The father would be ordered to lodge his passport with an appropriate firm at the beginning of each contact period. A prohibited steps order would be made preventing the father from removing the son from the mother's care (save for the purposes of contact) or removing him from this jurisdiction without her written consent. However, the making of this order would be conditional upon the mother not pursuing a judgment summons, or any other step leading to imprisonment of the father arising out of breach of the financial remedy order. If she was unwilling to give that assurance, the order would not be made in those terms. The quantum and duration of contact, and conditions, would be in the same terms, but the place of contact would be France. Judgment, 28/04/2021, free
  • The Irish father sought the return of two five-year-old children to the Republic of Ireland under the Hague Convention. The mother, a British national currently living in England after a clandestine departure, opposed the application, while applying under the Children Act for leave to remove to Ireland in respect of her third child, in case a return order was made in respect of the other children. The father of the third child applied for a residence order and a prohibited steps order. Peel J made a return order for the first and second children upon their father undertaking, among other things, to pay weekly child maintenance and to not support any prosecution of the mother. Peel J also decided that the mother should be given permission to relocate with the third child to Ireland. Among other factors, the father of the third child had shown himself capable of violence to the mother and her children, and so the court could not be confident about entrusting the care of the third child to him. Judgment, 22/03/2021, free

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