A divorced couple fighting over their children have spent approximately £200,000 on legal costs.
In F v F, a German father who was born in Malaysia and living in Hungary sought the return of his three children from their British mother who was born in Northern Ireland.
He applied for the return under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This is an international agreement which facilitates the return of children who were taken out of their home country by one parent against the other’s wishes.
The parents met while at university in England and married in early 2004. After the marriage, they moved to Budapest, Hungary, to live with his parents until the end of the year. Then they relocated to Malaysia and stayed there until May 2012 when they returned to Budapest. All three children were born while the family lived in Malaysia.
When their marriage broke down in 2014, the parents attended counselling, but the judge described its purpose as “focused upon making arrangements for their separation, rather than for their continued marriage”.
The mother took the children to London in the summer of 2014 after many discussions with the father about care arrangements. In his application for the return of his children, the father contended that even though he had paid for the property the mother and children moved into, the initial trip to London was only meant to be temporary.
However, the mother claimed that the father had agreed that the children should live and attend school in London. She argued that this was why she did not return to Budapest with the children on the day the return flight was booked.
Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr Justice Peter Jackson said he was “not willing to stand by and watch a waste of resources on this scale”, resources which included the parents’ money and the Court’s time.
The judge noted that the primary issue before the court was whether or not the father had actually consented to the move, not whether he should have consented or if it would have been reasonable to refuse consent at all.
Despite the “difficulties [created] for the children, for the mother, and probably also for the father”, the judge ruled that there was “no clear and unequivocal consent” given by for a permanent move to London. Therefore, he granted the father’s application and ordered that the children be returned to Budapest before the end of the school break.
To read the full judgment, click here.