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Court grants permission for British child to live in the US with her half-sister

The High Court has granted permission for a British child to be taken to the US to live with her half-sister.

The case of Kent County Council v. PA-K and IA (a child) concerned a four year old child referred to as ‘LA’ in court documents. The local authority had applied to be allowed to let LA go and live with an unnamed couple living in the United States. The couple, referred to as Mr & Mrs X, were British citizens but had moved to US for work. In 2003 they adopted the four year-old’s half sister, now aged 10.

The council needed legal permission to ‘remove’ LA (allow her to leave) under the Adoption and Children Act 2002 because the proposal was for her to leave the UK more than a month and also because she had been made the subject of a placement order (granting legal permission to place a child for adoption). LA’s mother had not given consent in writing for the adoption.

Sitting in the Family Division, Mrs Justice Pauffley said in her judgement that there  were “powerful welfare arguments” in favour of granting the council’s application.

“IA will be able to live with and grow up alongside her half sister A whom she already refers to as ‘my sister’. Mr and Mrs X are very impressive individuals who will be able to offer IA a safe, secure and nurturing home where all of her physical and emotional needs can be met. IA is ready and able to move now. She has met and begun to engage very favourably with Mr and Mrs X. Any delay could frustrate her development. IA’s mother by reason of her very sad history and mental health difficulties was excluded as a potential carer.”

Mrs Justice Pauffley considered alternative routes to the adoption in a complex the situation, with a British couple ‘habitually resident’ (living) in the US but still legally ‘domiciled’ in the UK (ie still British citizens). Adoption under English law was open to the couple but this would have meant living with LA in the UK for two years before a visa would be granted for the youngster. They could also have applied for adoption under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, an international treaty regulating adoptions involving more than one country, but his option was not an option not open to foreign citizens in the US.

The judge pronounced herself satisfied that Mr and Mrs X intended to remain domiciled in the UK and granted the application, allowing LA to go and live with them in the US for an initial period of one year.

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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