The Family Court has allowed a mother to take her child back to New Zealand.
Child arrangement orders, which dictate where a child will live and with who, were made in the mother’s favour.
In H v F (Relocation), the mother, a native of New Zealand, and British father both applied to be named the main carer of their daughter.
The parents met in late 2012 while the mother was working in England as a waitress on a two year working visa.
When the mother became pregnant, the couple relocated to the North Island of New Zealand and lived with her parents. They were beginning to have difficulties in their relationship at this stage.
Eight weeks after the birth of their daughter, called ‘A’ in the judgment, the family moved to England and began living with the paternal family. Shortly afterwards, their relationship ended.
Following the breakup, the maternal grandmother travelled to England and rented accommodation for her and A’s mother.
Due to the parents coming from countries so far apart, Mr Justice Peter Jackson said it was important “to seek all possible ways of sustaining her relationships with both parents”.
The father contended that the mother was incapable of taking care of A without support, but the judge said there was no evidence to support the claim.
Additionally, the father alleged that A would not be safe in the mother’s care, claiming she had a short, violent temper and was a “habitual drug user”.
The claims of drug use were based on a questionnaire the mother filled in as part of her maternity notes. The judge said the drug use amounted to “the taking of a few ecstasy tablets and the use of cocaine on one occasion” before the parents met.
Mr Justice Jackson accepted this was the full extent of her drug use, saying he was “satisfied that drugs and criminality are not an issue in this case”.
The judge also said that the mother and her family showed a much greater insight into what caused the relationship difficulties than the father did, and that the father was sometimes “untruthful” during evidence when he became anxious about the outcome.
Mr Justice Jackson also described the decision to move from New Zealand to England as “disastrous”, saying that the mother had put the father’s wishes ahead of her family’s needs.
He was also concerned that, given the father’s allegations against the mother, he would not give A a “fair account” of her mother if the child arrangement orders were made in his favour.
The mother was named A’s main carer, and the judge added that it was “not realistic” to expect the mother to remain in England. He approved a plan of twice-yearly contact for the father and the paternal family.
Mr Justice Jackson also said if the parents ever found themselves living in the same country, more “advantageous arrangements” could be made.
There are a number of ‘stuck mums’, as they call themselves, based in New Zealand who have not had the same good fortune as this mother. Their attempts to leave and return to their native countries have been refused.
Photo of the New Zealand flag by Tākuta via Flickr