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French woman denied return of children

A French woman has been denied the return of her twin children from England by a High Court Judge.

In FJN v EGLF, the mother was born in Rwanda but became a French citizen, whereas the father was born in Montserrat, a British territory in the West Indies. The parents met in England and, according to the father, had a “casual” relationship.

When the mother became pregnant, she moved back to France, where she gave birth to the twins in 2009. The children were taken to England in 2013 to live with their father. Shortly afterwards, the mother applied for her children to be returned under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

This is an international agreement which allows for the return of children taken by a parent to another country.

The father claimed that he was invited to France by the mother to celebrate the twins’ birthday and during that visit the parents agreed that he should take the children back to England. The mother disputed the claim, and alleged that the father’s care of the children was only supposed to be temporary.

She said that, because she suffered from the blood disorder sickle cell disease, as well as Wegener’s disease, which affects the blood vessels, she visited a local hospital regularly. She claimed that, as a result, the parents had agreed the father would take the children on holiday and then return them to her care.

Shortly after the father had taken the children, the mother sent him a letter which said they “should live with their father” as they would be “better off”. Despite this letter, the mother claimed she never meant for the arrangement to be permanent.

Mrs Justice Hogg was not convinced. Based on accounts from both parents, she said that “there was clear consent” that the children should live with their father permanently.

The judge was “quite satisfied [the twins] should stay here”, and added that moving the children back to France after they had established a life in England would be “detrimental” to them.

In addition, Mrs Justice Hogg also made a residence order in the father’s favour, but allowed the mother to have a level of contact with the children which was “to be agreed between the parents”.

To read the full judgment, click here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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