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Supreme Court hears gay couple’s contact dispute

A former lesbian couple have taken their dispute over contact with their daughter to the UK Supreme Court this week.

The seven year-old girl, ‘B’, was taken to Pakistan by her birth mother early last year. In response, the mother’s former partner, who had previously sought to have the child split her time between the two, applied to make B a ward of court. She claimed the girl was a British national and was ‘habitually resident’ in England.

However, the Court of Appeal ruled that while B had “probably not yet acquired a habitual residence in Pakistan”, they could not say that she legally lived in England either.  The court also deemed that the return of the girl was not a serious enough issue to justify making her a ward of court.

This decision was made despite the court’s acknowledgement of “widespread, indeed pervasive, societal and state discrimination, social stigma, harassment and violence against both gay men and lesbian women in Pakistan”. As “lesbians are “invisible” in Pakistani society” the mother’s former partner would not have any way to secure a fair contact agreement if the case was heard there, her lawyers insist.

The dispute has now moved to the highest judicial authority in the UK. The two-day hearing is scheduled to conclude today. After they have heard all the available evidence, Lady Hale, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Sumption, and Lord Toulson must decide if B lost her habitual residence in England and Wales immediately upon her departure from the country and if the Court of Appeal was wrong to exercise jurisdiction in this case.

To read the initial Court of Appeal judgment in full, 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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