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Judge rules 5 children habitually resident in England

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March 28, 2024

A High Court judge has ruled that five children taken to the Republic of Ireland by their father are habitually resident in England.

In Lancashire County Council v T & Ors (Habitual Residence: Care Proceedings), Mr Justice Moylan ruled that the father had taken the children out of the country in order to avoid action taken against him by the local authority.

The father and all five children were born in Lancashire. The mother was born in Scotland but had spent the majority of her life in England. Both the mother’s and father’s respective parents live in Lancashire as well.

The family had been known to the council for a while. In 2010, they put child protection plans into place after one of the children suffered bruising at the hands of the mother. After an incident between the parents in June 2014, the mother left the family home. However, she continued to have contact with the children twice a week.

In July, the council decided to launch care proceedings. After being informed of this, the father and all five children left the family home late at night and travelled to Ireland on a ferry from Liverpool to Dublin. Mr Justice Moylan noted that they had left with very few supplies and the “bulk of their possessions, including toys and other items, remained at the family home”.

During their absence, a court declared the children habitually resident in England and Wales. This meant that jurisdiction for the care proceedings remains with the English rather than the Irish courts. Upon hearing of this decision, the father applied to challenge the decision. In his statement to the High Court, he claimed that the move was in order to “distance himself” from the mother and give the children a better life.

The judge was not convinced. He said he had no doubt that the father had chosen to leave England to avoid care proceedings.

“There is no other reasonable explanation for his leaving so suddenly, with so few of his and the children’s possessions and in the middle of the night, secretly and stealthily”, he added.

Mr Justice Moylan ruled that the children were habitually resident in England as the move “was not a genuine relocation to seek a better life in Ireland”. He concluded that the children’s “firmly established habitual residence in England cannot be lost so easily”.

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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