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London-based father seeks return of children to France

A father has demanded the return of his three children to France despite the entire family living in London.

In AF v HS, the French man and the children’s Danish mother lived in France and remained there after they separated. However, in 2014 the father moved to London for his job.

Prior to his relocation, the father and mother had a lengthy court battle over who would take care of the children. During the litigation, the mother alleged that the father had “behaved with sexual impropriety” towards at least one of the children. The French court rejected these assertions and ruled that the children should live with the father in England.

The mother subsequently went to the French Court of Appeal, but failed to get the decision overturned. During the appeal, the mother claimed she lived at an address in the south of France, but she had in fact moved to London without telling the father or the French courts.

When the father learned of the mother’s move, he applied to have the children returned to France under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Mr Justice Holman said the father’s application was “curious and unusual” because he still lived in England and had no intention of returning to France.

The judge asked why the father had not simply applied to enforce the French court orders which said the children should live with him. He claimed that the mother had renewed her allegations against him since she arrived in England. Therefore, he sought the return of the children to France so that he could take his case before a French court and “try to get to the truth once and for all”.

However, there had been no contact at all between him and the children since the move and the local authority said that he would not be investigated by the police. Upon learning this, the father changed his mind about his application and instead decided to seek the enforcement of the French orders.

Mr Justice Holman said that such proceedings were “for another day”. In the meantime, he ruled that he would not dismiss the father’s Hague Convention application, but would “stay” (postpone) it until a decision had been made about the French orders.

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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