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High Court says child must stay in the UK

The High Court has forbidden either parent of a 14 year-old girl from taking her back to Israel for legal proceedings in Jerusalem.

IS (A Ward by her next friend Nina Lind Hansen) v DBS and JS concerned a couple described by High Court Judge Sir Peter Singer as “profoundly estranged”. As a result their daughter, referred to as ‘IS’, had spent much of her life caught up in the turmoil of her parents’ relationship and now found herself embroiled in legal turmoil too.

“For many years torn between her parents she is now at risk of being torn between the competing and conflicting jurisdictions of courts here where she lives, and Israel the country of her birth.”

Sitting in the Family Division, Sir Peter outlined the family’s “tragic forensic odyssey”. Her parents had both moved to Israel in the 1990s. They were married in 1999 and IS was born the following year. But the relationship quickly deteriorated and the mother travelled to Britain in 2001 with the child. The father made an application for her return under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the mother was obliged to return in July 2002 after losing an appeal against the resulting ruling.

Back in Israel, the parents launched proceedings in the Jerusalem Court for Family Matters. Regular unsupervised contact between father and daughter was arranged, although this required intervention by the Court. The mother applied for permission to return to the UK but this was rejected.

It was not until 2005 that the couple were finally divorced and at that point, the mother made another application for permission to relocate and this was granted in April 2009. However, the father appealed against that ruling and proceedings dragged into the following year. The parties eventually agreed on number of conditions related to the move, including the lodging of a large bond with an Israeli court. Permission for the move was granted on an interim, provisional basis only, subject to court review, and it was also agreed that IS would retain ‘habitual residence’ (residence for legal purposes) in Israel until 2015. The Israeli courts later extended their claimed jurisdiction in the case until 2016 after concluding the mother and daughter had permanently relocated to the UK.

During this time, IS made a number of visits to Israel to see her father. These visits were interrupted at the end of 2013 when the local council, the London Borough of Redbridge, undertook investigations into IS’ welfare.

The situation began to deteriorate at the beginning of last year. The father alleged that he was being denied contact, while the mother claimed that the visits were harming IS and she wished to restrict these.

In April, IS was made a ward of the English courts, and the father responded to this by applying for an injunction which would prohibit the mother from engaging with the courts here in relation to IS.

In September, the parties reached a detailed agreement, including, amongst other measures, a statement that IS was now habitually resident in the UK.

However, court proceedings still continued, and the issue of jurisdiction remained in question despite the agreement. Sir Peter held a hearing at the High Court on this issue, in order to try and avoid a situation in which she would have, until she turned 18, “no option but to live her life, whether sadly or defiantly, in breach of the orders of one court or the other.”

He added:

“That is not a comfortable position in which a young person can be expected to grow and develop without strain.”

Sir Peter concluded, however, that it would not be possible to reach an agreement on this issue without conducting a detailed assessment of the family’s current situation – in particular why IS had expressed negative feelings about contact with her father and whether these had been influenced by her mother’s hostility to the father. This assessment was likely to take until May to complete. The Judge therefore repeated an earlier request for a moratorium on proceedings in either the English or Jerusalem courts until the assessment was complete.

In the meantime neither parent was to remove IS from England or from the care of her mother. Any visits by her father to see his daughter were to be supervised, the judge ruled.

Read the judgement 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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  1. Luke says:

    What a mess, the girl is now 15 so it’s academic, she should be allowed to go where she wants.
    I will say this though, and it’s a sad reality – the parent in such cases who compromises and allows the other parent flexibility is usually the one who gets shafted.

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