Family Law Hub

Brussels II Revised

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  • The mother contended that her three children, aged 14, 10 and 8, had been wrongfully retained in England. She applied, pursuant to the Hague Convention 1980, for their summary return to Poland and, pursuant to Brussels IIa, for the recognition and enforcement of an order made by the Polish District Court. The father opposed the return. The parents were Polish nationals, and the children had been born in the USA, before moving to Poland. The parents had separated after the father moved to England. During a holiday in England the children had complained of poor treatment by the mother, and the father had not returned them. Mr A. Verdan QC (sitting as a deputy High Court judge) found that the children's habitual residence had remained in Poland, but that the exception under Article 13(b) had been made out, the children being at risk of physical ill-treatment and unacceptable chastisement by the mother. He would not exercise his discretion to return the children to Poland pursuant to the Hague application. Considering the second application, he noted that he had not been made aware of any authority suggesting that the court, having refused a return via the Hague Convention, should at the same hearing enforce a return via Brussels IIa, and he declined to do so. He encouraged the parties to engage in mediation. Judgment, 03/03/2021, 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 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
  • An application by the father for the summary return of his two twin children to Croatia, pursuant to the provisions of the 1980 Hague Convention and Brussels IIa. The children were in England with their mother, living with her parents. The father had previously retained the children in Croatia without her consent, leading to the end of the couple's relationship, but the children had been found by the Croatian court to be habitually resident there. She accepted that the children had then been brought to England without the father's consent, but with reference to Article 13(b) claimed that the children were likely to suffer distress if required to return to Croatia without her. In the view of Mr David Lock QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, the evidence did not suggest that there was a grave risk of psychological distress sufficiently serious for Article 13(b) to apply. He made an order requiring the return of the children forthwith to Croatia. Judgment, 25/09/2020, 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

Latest know-how

  • In a tweet: Wife fails to establish divorce jurisdiction in England and Wales. Case note, 16/10/2019, members only
  • In a tweet: Article 19 BIIR: court best placed to decide which court is first seised should determine the issue. Case note, 02/10/2019, members only
  • Florence Jones, Pupil, 1 Hare Court, writes a case summary of Pierburg v Pierburg [2019] EWFC 24. Case note, 26/04/2019, members only
  • In brief: A preliminary ruling from the ECJ determined that in order to establish habitual residence under Article 8 BIIR, a child must be physically present in the member state. The circumstances of the child being physically present elsewhere are irrelevant. This was a referral from the English High Court where the father ("F") had allegedly coerced the mother ("M") into remaining in Bangladesh with the child, potentially in breach of their ECHR rights. Case note, 17/12/2018, members only
  • In a tweet: Habitual residence at time court is seised is key to jurisdiction, not where child will be living Case note, 12/01/2017, members only

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