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Court of Appeal comes to mixed verdict on Hague Convention case

In a recently published Hague Convention case, the High Court has ruled that one of two children brought to the UK from Latvia was removed unlawfully.

In a VK v JV, held before Mr Justice Moor, a couple met and married in Latvia and had two children. Later the parents moved to Wisbech, near Cambridge, for work, leaving the children in the care of grandparents. In early 2010, the mother brought the children to live with them in the UK, but  made a number of return visits toLatvia.

The parents’ marriage began to run into difficulties in the latter part of 2011. They both returned to the UK from Latvia and set up home separately in Wisbech.

The children remained in Latvia, in the care of the father’s aunt, and the this arrangement was later legally ratified.

In January of last year, the mother made another trip toLatvia. To quote Mr Justice Moor’s ruling:

“I am satisfied that the mother went there with the intention of collecting both children and bringing them to live with her in England. She says that she had by then obtained her own accommodation in Wisbech, had obtained employment and had made childcare arrangements sufficient for her to bring the children back to England. The father did not agree.”

During a subsequent legal hearing, the parents came to an agreement regarding the residence. They noted this agreement down but were unable to get it legally ratified by a notary.

The agreement stipulated that the one of the two children would go live with her mother in England, while the other could stay with her father inLatvia for six months. If, at the end of six months, the father had not bought a flat, then the other child would also be handed over to the mother.

The father then gave the mother the first child’s passport, clothes and belongings and she returned to England. He later claimed he had not expected her to return to England and he was misled into handing over her passport.

The father then returned to England, once again leaving the other child in the care of his aunt. After six months, the mother returned to Latvia. To quote Mr Justice Moor:

“I am satisfied that her intention was to collect [the second child] and bring her to this country. She believed she was entitled to do so as the six months had elapsed and the father had not purchased a flat in S and/or moved back there.”

She collected the second child, with help from the authorities. When informed by telephone, the father said he did not agree with the move and he returned as quickly as possible to Latvia.

In July, the father agreed to meet the mother and children at the clock tower in Riga. She did not show up and in fact flew back to England that day with the children.

The father subsequently made an application, under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, for the return of the children to Latvia. In response, the mother claimed that the father had in effect agreed to both children being brought to England in the handwritten custody agreement. As he had not bought a flat as agreed, he could not care properly for the second child.

Mr Justice Moor ruled that the father had fully consented to the removal of the first child to England, despite his claims to the contrary, but said the mother’s behaviour had been “clandestine” in relation to the second child, and that she had deliberately ignored the father’s clear wishes. He had applied for custody while the mother was still in Latvia during July.

“It follows the removal of SK was a wrongful removal,” the judge concluded.

The case continues.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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