A Family Court judge has declared that a two year-old girl born in Mexico is habitually resident in England.
In international family disputes, ‘habitual residence’ is the term used to describe where someone usually lives. Once it has been established, the appropriate court can assume jurisdiction.
In O (Child Abduction: Habitual Residence), the girl’s father was an Englishman who moved to Mexico in 2006. Three years later, he met the mother and the couple married in late 2011. The girl, identified only as ‘C’ in the judgment, was born about a year after her parents’ wedding.
After a visit to England in 2013, there were discussions about a permanent relocation. Members of the father’s family described conversations with the mother “about the impending move”. In early 2014, the father moved back to England permanently, thinking he had a job waiting for him. This turned out not to be the case and he moved in with his parents.
In April 2014, the mother and C arrived in the country on six month tourist visas and moved in with the father at his parents’ house. However, the couple’s marriage did not last much longer. The mother took C with her to a hotel, but left her unattended for a night. This led to her arrest for neglect and C being placed in her father’s care.
After an attempt by the mother to take C out of the country, the father launched proceedings to prevent this from happening again. These proceedings were put on hold once the mother applied to have C returned to Mexico. Before that could be ruled on, C’s habitual residence had to be decided.
During a hearing to determine the matter, C’s mother claimed that any move to England was only temporary but Mr Justice Peter Jackson said that evidence in support of this was “substantially outweighed” by communications between her and the father’s family which indicated otherwise.
The judge rejected the mother’s claims that the move to England was simply a family holiday and that it was “only for a short period of time in order for C to spend some time with her paternal family”. He declared that C’s habitual residence was in England and had been since she arrived last April.
To read the full judgment, click here.