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Children's Wishes

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  • The mother applied under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985 (incorporating the Hague Convention 1980), and in the alternative under the inherent jurisdiction, for the return of her eight-year-old son to Russia. She contended that the father had wrongfully removed or retained the child in 2019. The father opposed the applications, raising issues of whether, at the relevant time, the child had been habitually resident in Russia and the mother had had rights of custody, whether the child would be at risk following a return, and whether the child objected to a return. The father's own prior applications, including for prohibited steps orders, had been stayed pending determination of the mother's applications. Cobb J found that the son had developed a sufficient degree of integration in life in Russia, while living there for ten months or so, to acquire habitual residence. The removal had indeed been in breach of the mother’s rights of custody. He did not believe that the son would be likely to suffer the “severe degree of psychological harm which the 1980 Hague Convention has in mind” (per Lord Donaldson) and the father therefore failed in his case under Article 13(b). Cobb J did not regard the son's objection to returning as being powerfully expressed or adamant. He reached the conclusion that a return to Russia was in the son's interests, where fully-informed welfare-based decisions could be made in a court to which both parents had ready access. Judgment, 27/07/2020, free
  • Both parents and the daughter were Brazilian nationals. The mother applied under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985 for a summary return order pursuant to the provisions of the 1980 Hague Convention. The child had been habitually resident in Brazil and had been wrongfully retained in England following a holiday. The father resisted the application on Article 13(b) grounds, and on the ground that the child objected to returning for the purposes of Article 13. The maternal grandparents and a maternal aunt had alleged violent conduct towards the child on the part of the mother, and this had been confirmed by the child in conversation with the the Cafcass Officer. MacDonald J was satisfied that there was a grave risk that returning the daughter to Brazil would expose her to harm or an intolerable situation for the purposes of Article 13(b). It was clear that the daughter had settled well in England and was having her physical and emotional needs met here. He declined to make a summary return order and dismissed the mother's application. He emphasised that his decision was reached upon the very unusual facts of this case, i.e. that the holiday had provided the opportunity for the child to alert her other parent and the authorities to the risks she faced in Brazil. This was not a paradigm case of wrongful retention following a holiday. Judgment, 21/07/2020, free
  • HHJ Wildblood QC decided that this heavily anonymised judgment should be released for publication, because it was in the public's interest to see badly wrong things could go in cases of parental alienation. There had been a failure here to identify the problem before the damage was done, and early intervention was essential. Indirect contact was of limited use in such cases. The extent of the children's alienation from the father had been underestimated, and now, following a failed transfer of residence, he had no contact with them at all, and had withdrawn proceedings to prevent further distress. In this hearing HHJ Wildblood QC gave the local authority permission to withdraw their public law proceedings. Judgment, 21/10/2019, free
  • An order had been made transferring the boy's home to that of his father in Northern Ireland, because maintaining the placement with his mother and grandmother would cause him emotional harm. The situation did not rise to the level of parental alienation, but the child was unable to speak positively of his father in the maternal home. The mother appealed, arguing that there had been procedural irregularity, the decision to transfer residence was premature, and the conclusions on the balance of harm were wrong or insufficiently evidenced. Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, found that none of the challenges made on her behalf had been sustained. The appeal was dismissed. Judgment, 09/05/2019, free
  • The mother made an application under the Hague Convention for the return of the son to New Zealand. The father had expressed concerns about the child's well-being in his mother's care. Darren Howe QC had to proceed on the basis that there was a risk of harm, but he noted that there had been improvements in the mother's parenting, and accepted her undertaking to prevent contact between her partner and the child. The father had not proved a grave risk of harm or an otherwise intolerable situation for the son and the defence therefore failed. An order would be made for the return of the son to New Zealand. Judgment, 08/05/2019, free

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