A two year-old boy kept in England by his mother must be returned to Bermuda, a High Court judge has ruled.
In S v S, the English parents lived in Bermuda. They were married in 2009 and the boy was born there. By 2012 the parents’ relationship had run into difficulties. The mother visited a psychologist and eventually being diagnosed with depression. She was signed off work by her GP in Bermuda, and again by a doctor in England.
In October last year, she travelled to Britain with the toddler, telling her husband she had work commitments in the UK but also intended to spend two weeks visiting her family. The husband was worried she might not return but she produced return air tickets.
Back in the UK, however, the emailed the father to tell him that she was unwell and would not be returning to Bermuda for the time being. He asked for a return date but she did not provide one, and eventually, in November, his lawyers wrote to her to again request a return date. She made it “clear” that she did not intend to return. The husband issued divorce proceedings and also applied for the summary return of his son, under the ‘inherent jurisdiction’ of the courts.
He also issued custody proceedings in the Bermudan courts and these are due to be heard next month.
Sitting in the Family Divison, Mrs Justice Theis noted:
“…it is apparent from the information I have read that the mother is in a fragile emotional state. She has been signed off work since the end of September, initially for severe stress and more recently for depression. The father accepts the mother is depressed but states that the medical support she had prior to leaving Bermuda is still available and she will be returning to a different situation, as she will not be living with the father. The mother states that her best chance of recovery, in the short and long term, is to remain in this jurisdiction, with the support of her family and hopefully return to part time work with her current employers.”
The judge continued:
“…if the mother returned to Bermuda with L it would be to a relatively precarious financial situation. The father does not work and does not have any significant assets, he accepts as much in the document attached to his own statement where he describes his earnings and savings as nil/negligible. The mother is unlikely to be in a fit state to work if she returns to Bermuda and there is a real question mark as to whether any suitable part time work would be available for her.”
The judge declared:
“… I have reached the conclusion it is in L’s best interests that he should return with his mother to Bermuda so that welfare issues between the parties regarding L can be decided there. The factors that tip the welfare considerations in favour of such a course are the adverse impact on L’s relationship with his father if he does not return to Bermuda; the mother will be returning to a situation that is different from the one she left in that the parties will be living separately, which is likely to reduce the stress a return will cause on her; she would be able to take up the medical and other support that was available to her before and is known to her; her parents are likely to be able to come and support her during this period; L is a child who was born and brought up in Bermuda. To date Bermuda has been his main home. The courts in Bermuda are best placed to be able to determine the welfare issues between the parties and a hearing is listed in a relatively short period of time.”
The father offered to provide financial assistance to the mother and this was made a condition of the judge’s ruling that she return to Bermuda.