A High Court judge has refused a British father’s legal bid to enforce contact between him and his two children.
The parents met in Spain and began their relationship in 2004 and their first child was born there four years later. Before they had their second child in 2012, the couple married in Gibraltar. By the time their second child was born, the family began to spend “substantial periods of time in both” England and Spain. Their relationship soon broke down and they separated in 2013.
Following their separation, the American mother successfully applied for permission to move the children to Spain. However, the district judge’s order stipulated that it would only be for 19 months until August of this year. It also said that the children’s legal or ‘habitual residence’ would remain in England and Wales.
The order also stated that the father should see his children “at least on three-weekly cycle either in England or in Spain” and that the costs of their meetings should be divided equally between the parents. After the order was made, the mother moved to Spain with her children.
Despite the contact order, complained that he was unable to see his children for lengthy periods. He said that on one occasion there had been a gap of a year between visits.
Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr Justice Peter Jackson heard the father’s application to enforce the original order. He considered two central questions: where the children were habitually resident and whether or not the original order was enforceable.
The judge ruled that, despite the terms of the order, the children’s habitual residence was in Spain, not England and Wales. He said they had “a significant history of living in Spain” and that that their lives “had the necessary quality of stability” to establish a legal residence.
Turning to the second question, the judge did “not consider that this is an order that can be enforced”. He added that “an enforceable order would have to … specify the times when contact was to take place” and that, because neither parent had legal representation when it was made, the order failed to do so.
Mr Justice Jackson said that these two points led him to dismiss the father’s application. He concluded by urging the parents to “take whatever opportunity they can to find a legal and practical solution” to ensure that the children “have regular dependable high quality time with their father, free from the disagreements and legal arguments”.
To read GW v MW, click here.