A mother has been given permission to relocate to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with her nine year old son by the High Court.
In M v B, the Algerian parents married in 2003, first in an Islamic ceremony then in an English civil ceremony. It was the second marriage for both parents. The mother had a child from her first marriage whereas the father did not.
The parents’ relationship eventually broke down and they began “to live separate lives in the same household” until the father moved out of the house in 2010.
In the summer of 2011, the father returned to Algeria after losing his high level job in England. He went through “a period of both physical and mental ill-health” so was cared for by his family.
During this time, the mother’s daughter from her first marriage had secured employment in Abu Dhabi. The mother took her son to visit his sister and was “very attracted by what she saw and experienced” while there.
When she returned to England, the mother began to take steps towards relocating to the UAE in order to be in closer proximity to her daughter. She also believed that she could have a better standard of living there and be able to afford a private education for her son.
She applied to the Court for permission to relocate, claiming that as the majority of the father’s interaction with the son was now through phone calls and the internet, the relocation would not affect the amount of contact they would have.
She filed for divorce at the same time, only to find out that the husband’s first marriage had never officially ended. As a result, they had never been “lawfully married”.
In late 2013, the father returned to England, and began having regular in-person contact with his son. Despite the two having a “fundamentally good relationship”, the conflict between the parents caused “utmost stress and distress” to the son.
The father claimed the mother’s relocation was an attempt to prevent their son from having contact with his paternal family. The mother disputed this assertion and said she would love to visit Algeria with her son but feared that if she did, she would not be able to leave with him.
Having observed the interaction between the parents, Mr Justice Holman said the father displayed “hatred” and “bitter contempt” towards the mother because she had not been “an obedient and submissive Islamic wife”.
The judge said the mother’s motives were “entirely proper” and had taken the best interest of her son into account. He added that the current situation of parental conflict “simply cannot be allowed to persist” so he granted the mother permission to relocate.