The High Court has ordered the return of a five-year old boy to his father in Ukraine.
The child’s parents began their relationship in 2006 but soon began to have difficulties. The mother claimed the father “had problems with alcohol and drugs” and would sometimes be “aggressive and abusive”. These issues did not go away once their son was born. They separated and reconciled in 2011 before the mother left for good in 2013. She told the court that the relationship had become “unbearable” so she went to live with her parents in neighbouring country Belarus.
While the mother lived there, the child remained in Ukraine with the father, although the parents managed to share care. During this time, the mother began a new relationship. She and her partner decided to move to England. However, she did not inform the father.
In late 2014, the child travelled to Belarus to be with his mother for what the father believed would be 12 weeks. Instead, she and her new partner took the boy to England. The father did not find out until afterwards and soon launched legal proceedings. He demanded the return of his son under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
The mother objected despite admitting she had “wrongfully” brought her son to England. She claimed that the father had “acquiesced” to the new living arrangements and that her son was at risk of “physical or psychological harm” if he returned to Ukraine.
Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr Justice Baker ruled that the mother had not proven her claim that the father had agreed to his son remaining in England. He said that given the father’s behaviour during proceedings and the speed with which he first began his legal bid, the evidence “does not show unequivocally that the father acquiesced”.
The judge also dismissed the mother’s claim that her son would be at risk of harm. He ruled that her argument was “very substantially undermined” by the fact that she left the child in his father’s care when she moved to Belarus.
Mr Justice Baker concluded with an order that the boy return to Ukraine.
To read the full judgment, click here.