R v C and S concerned a boy had been born in the South American country but had no contact with his biological father. The woman’s by-then estranged English husband was listed as the father on his birth certificate and had parental responsibility for the boy.
His parents moved to the UK after when he was three years old, but later separated, after which they boy lived with his mother. The father visited weekly.
The man, a journalist with an interest in Latin America, opposed his former’s wife application to return to Colombia and instead applied for a residence order, allowing the boy to live with him, or a shared residence order. He claimed that the area of Columbia in which the mother would be living was dangerous and believed she would not be the boy’s main carer once in the country. He was also concerned that he would be unable to see the boy after the move.
The child’s legal guardian supported the mother, saying the father did not understand the mother’s point of view. The latter would, she claimed, struggle if the courts refused her permission to move back to Columbia.
Sitting in the Family Division, Mr Justice Peter Jackson concluded that the child’s best interests lay in living with his mother. The couple had developed an acrimonious relationship. The mother had no support from family and friends in the UK but would have such support back in her home country. She was stressed in her current situation and would find it difficult to properly care for the child if forced to remain in Britain.
The judge said:
“Despite my conclusion that she has not always been truthful, I found her evidence about her feelings and her reasons for wanting to return to Colombia genuine and compelling.”
Life in Colombia would be a change for the child but he had already lived in the country and there was no reason to think he would be unable to adapt. The father would face challenges in maintaining his relationship with the boy but could do so if he put aside the recent acrimony in their relationship.
Mr Justice Parker declared:
“[The mother] has not turned S against the father in the course of the past year and has complied with contact orders. I believe that if the father is willing to meet her halfway in re-establishing some mutual respect, there is every reason to believe that contact will take place in Colombia and England.”
“…it has some relevance that the father is not a biological parent. He is an important figure in [the child’s] life but his active role has been an intense one for the period of about 18 months of cohabitation, while being of somewhat lesser significance both before and after that time.”
The judge ordered contact between the man and the boy before the mother left for Colombia and after her arrival. He also encouraged the couple to undergo mediation before she left.