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Children's Wishes

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  • The Latvian father made a Hague Convention 1980 application for the summary return of the two children, aged 14 and 12. The mother alleged that the father had orally agreed to the children remaining in England after she brought them there. The mother's defences were settlement under Article 12; children's objections under Article 13; consent and acquiescence under Article 13(a); and grave risk of harm and intolerability under Article 13(b). She succeeded on the first two and thus it was not necessary for the third and fourth to be considered. In Mostyn J's judgment, the physical and mental constituents of the concept of settlement had been very amply proved in this case, and the children's objections to a return were rational, reasonable and logical. He exercised the discretion granted to him under articles 12 and 13 of the Convention against a return of the children to Latvia. He commented that "many of these outward return cases under the Hague 1980 Convention have become disproportionately complex, lengthy and expensive". He urged the court to strictly apply paragraph 3.8 of the Practice Guidance: Case Management and Mediation of International Child Abduction Proceedings (issued by Sir James Munby P on 13 March 2018), and allow oral evidence only where it was "demanded" to resolve the case justly, not "merely reasonable or desirable". As to an ex parte location order made by the father, it was Mostyn J's view that "the time has surely come to insist that the standards in the Practice Guidance concerning ex parte applications are scrupulously observed", which they had not been in this case. Judgment, 25/10/2021, free
  • The father applied for the summary return of the daughter to a country in which he did not live, and which was not a signatory to the Hague Convention. The application would thus be determined according to the best interests of the child, who wished to remain in London. Both parents had left extremely unpleasant messages on the daughter's mobile phone, neither parent thought twice about disparaging the other in front of the daughter, and each went out of their way to seek to persuade her that the other parent was untrustworthy. In Poole J's view, the damaging effects of their conduct was plain to see. The father's contempt for the mother infected every aspect of his case, and he was often inconsistent in his evidence. The daughter was undoubtedly now habitually resident in England, and her wish to remain was absolutely clear. In Poole J's judgment, it would have taken exceptional countervailing factors to persuade the court that it was in her best interests to be returned against her will, and in fact the balance of other factors, having regard to the welfare checklist under s 1(3) of the Children Act 1989, also weighed in favour of not making such an order. The father's application was dismissed. Judgment, 13/10/2021, free
  • The 15-year-old daughter applied for the release of her own Russian and Greek passports, currently held by the mother's solicitors pursuant to a previous order, so that she could travel for about three weeks with her maternal grandmother to Barnaul in Russia. The father opposed the application. In Holman J's view, the risk of non-return was a low one. The daughter was old enough and mature enough to understand the gravity of a solemn promise given to a judge and to her father, and the gravity of breaking it. Formal undertakings would be given by both the mother and the grandmother which would carry sanctions if broken. The mother's passport would be lodged, together with that of the daughter's sibling, so that if the daughter did not return from Russia, there would be no question of the mother and sibling travelling there to join her. The risk was far outweighed by the benefits to her of the proposed trip and her own strong wish to travel there. The trip would therefore be permitted and the daughter's passports released. Judgment, 20/09/2021, free
  • Two young people of Spanish nationality, aged 17 and 14, applied to the court for declarations in respect of their status with a view to taking further proceedings to regularise their legal status. After being detained in France over the 2020 summer holidays as a result of applications made to the Spanish courts by the father, they were currently unable to travel outside of the jurisdiction of England and Wales for fear of their detention or retention, and the possible arrest of their mother. The applicants invited the court to consider making final orders that they would live with their mother, and they sought a new child arrangements order. Russell J DBE unhesitatingly accepted the submission that the facts of this case were exceptional, and it fell within s 9(7) of the Children Act 1989, so an order was required in respect of the older child despite her age. The circumstances of the case required an order reflecting the situation in real terms and releasing the applicants (and their mother) from any legal obligations to spend time with the father. There was no doubt that the children were habitually resident in this jurisdiction and that this court had jurisdiction over matters relating to parental responsibility for them. Judgment, 27/07/2021, free
  • The father appealed against a decision to set aside a return order and to dismiss his application for summary return. The father was an Italian national, the mother a British national, and shortly after their son was born in England they moved to Italy. In 2019, when the child was 10, the mother brought him to England and they did not return. The judge had found that the evidence of the child's wishes and feelings amounted to "a fundamental change of circumstances" and "a fundamental change to the basis on which the previous order was made". In Hayden J's view, although the judge had clearly identified a significant and sustained degree of pressure placed on the child by his mother, he did not seem to have considered how this would have compromised the authenticity of the child's expressed views. The test as to whether there had been a 'fundamental change of circumstances' had to be set high. The mother's application was a clear example of an attempt to reargue a case which had already been comprehensively determined. Asplin and Moylan LJJ agreed. The appeal would be allowed and an order made for the child's return to Italy. The child would not be added as a party to proceedings; to do so would only serve to heighten the conflict that he had struggled to avoid. Judgment, 04/03/2021, free

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