The High Court has ordered the return of a six year-old boy to Denmark after his mother brought him to England without the father’s consent.
In Re F, the boy’s father was Bosnian and his mother Slovakian, but the unmarried couple lived together in Denmark. At the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Jackson noted:
“K, their only child, was born in January 2008. In the following month, the parents signed a declaration as a result of which they share joint custody and parental responsibility.”
The judge continued:
“The parents and child lived together in Copenhagen. The mother worked as a cleaner. In the father’s case scarcely a year has passed without him serving some short sentence of imprisonment, usually for driving while disqualified. Indeed, it is a peculiarity of the present application that the father is currently serving a sentence of 60 days imprisonment imposed upon him on 20 January 2014 for driving without a licence.”
In May last year, the mother left Denmark with the boy K. She initially travelled to Slovakia, then the Czech Republic and finally on to Newcastle, where her father and one of her older children lived.
The boy began school and sometimes spoke to his father by Skype.
The father launched proceedings under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, seeking the return of his son.
The mother claimed he had consented to the boy travelling with her and also alleged that the father had been emotionally abusive and was a heavy drinker.
Mr Justice Peter Jackson said:
“For the last two years of their time together it is clear that the relationship between the parents was unhappy, with frequent arguments and the police being called a number of times by the mother or by neighbours. On two or three occasions, the mother took herself and K to a refuge for short periods before returning to the father. Not surprisingly, K was affected and his school expressed concern about aggressive behaviour. Social services were also involved but after a home visit they took no further action.”
The father said he had only agreed to the mother taking K to Slovakia for a holiday and that England had not been discussed. As he did not have the necessary documents to travel to England to visit K, he would not have agreed even if a journey to the UK had been discussed, he insisted.
Mr Justice Peter Jackson said:
“My conclusion on this issue is that the father was never asked for his consent to K being brought to England and that he certainly never gave it. I base this on two matters: first, that the probabilities are strongly against it and secondly that I prefer the evidence of the father to the mother on this issue. The mother’s evidence scarcely suggested that consent was ever given, while the father’s robust denials were convincing. He was a poor witness in relation to dates but that does not undermine his clear account of being placed in a situation after the mother’s departure that he could do little about.”
“I find that the mother did not seek the father’s consent to move to England at any stage because she knew that he would refuse it. I find that the first time she told him of an actual plan to come here was either from Slovakia or the Czech Republic and that she told him rather than asking him.”
A claim by the mother that K was integrated into his new life in England “overstates” matters, he added.
The judge concluded:
“Looking at matters overall, a return order will certainly bring significant disadvantages to K in disrupting his current arrangements, but …they should be weighed alongside the advantage to him in his seeing his father again and in having his long-term future determined in the jurisdiction of his habitual residence.”