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High Court Judge unsure of children’s status

A High Court has expressed doubt concerning the legal status of three children living in England as their parents continue an acrimonious divorce.

The case concerned a British mother and an Indian father, who had three children, all born in the UK. The family followed the father’s job to a number of different countries round the world, eventually moving to Singapore.

The couple separated and there followed proceedings in the Singaporean courts described by High Court judge Mr Justice Holman as “intense” as the couple disputed both access to the children and financial matters.

Then in June last year, the mother suddenly left Singapore, flying back to England with the children. The father’s legal team initially accused her of “abducting” the children.

Later, however, the father found a new job and returned to England himself. He planned to stay, he announced, and enjoy regular time with his children.

But in a development described as “paradoxical” by the Judge, the mother then declared that she wished to return to Singapore with the children, leaving the father behind in England.

In the High Court, the Judge considered the mother’s request after the case had been referred upwards by a local family court judge. He believed there to be some doubt regarding whether or not the children had become habitually resident in England for legal purposes just six months prior to the hearing.

Mr Justice Holman agreed that the children’s legal status was very uncertain. Set against that fact habitual residence in England was open to debate, he said, was the fact that that the children held no habitual residence elsewhere. As a result, Mr Justice Holman declared:

“… it seems to me quite clear that the courts of England and Wales do have jurisdiction in relation to these children on the basis either that they are habitually resident here; or, although they are not habitually resident here, that they are not habitually resident in any other relevant State and are present here.”

He referred the case back to the local family courts in West London, declaring that there was no need for further attention from the High Court. The Judge described the marriage as “highly contentious on almost every aspect”. The estranged couple could not reach an agreement on the father having even temporary contact with the children and there remained “huge issues” in relation to finance.

Read the full judgement 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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