Practising as a family lawyer for any length of time teaches you to be ready to deal with the best and the worst of human nature. There are times when parties to family proceedings act in a sensible, civilised fashion treating each other with respect and putting the welfare of any children involved above all else. At the other end of the scale, however, there are times when one comes across parties who are prepared to go to any lengths to achieve their aims, treating the other party with contempt and oblivious to the effect of their actions upon the children.
Unfortunately the recently reported case H (A Child) fell into the latter category.
The judgment, given on the 7th of April this year by Mrs Justice Hogg, concerned a fact-finding hearing relating to an eighteen-month-old boy. The boy’s parents were both born in Pakistan and they entered into an arranged marriage in Pakistan in 2011. The father had British citizenship through a previous marriage. The mother came to this country on a spousal visa in August 2012 and the boy was born here a month later.
In December 2012 the family travelled to Pakistan, intending to stay there until 1st January 2013, when the family were due to return to this country in order for the father to return to work. There was an argument at Lahore airport upon their arrival, as a result of which the mother and son went to stay with her family in Lahore and the father went to stay with his family.
Exactly what happened at the airport was in dispute and therefore fell to Mrs Justice Hogg to decide. The mother claimed that the father had retained their passports and had refused to return them when she requested, so as to prevent her from leaving Pakistan. The father claimed that he did return the passports.
After reviewing the evidence Mrs Justice Hogg came down firmly in favour of the mother’s version of events. The father, she found, had taken the family to Pakistan with the intention of retaining the passports. His plan was for the child to stay with his family in Pakistan and for him and the child to return to this country, without the mother. The plan only failed because the mother, with the help of her brother who met her at the airport, was able to keep ‘possession’ of the child (the paternal grandmother has since commenced proceedings in Pakistan seeking custody of the child).
Mrs Justice Hogg concluded:
“I am making a finding against the father. Frankly, he has lied to me. He has lied to me about big issues and those lies amounted to a plan to strand the mother in Pakistan, to bring this child back without the mother. It is callous and cruel.”
Indeed it is, although quite what is going to happen next and whether the mother will be able to return to this country with the child is unclear. What is clear, however, is that the father’s behaviour towards her was appalling, and that it is also likely to have had a serious detrimental effect upon the child.
Photo of Lahore, Pakistan by noman bukhari via Flickr