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Court rejects father’s ‘custody’ claim

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March 28, 2024

The High Court has rejected a French expatriate’s claim that his former partner agreed to their children living with him.

The couple moved to England in the summer of 2012 with their children. However, their relationship ended the following March. Soon afterwards the mother successfully applied for permission to take the children back to France.

In 2015 the couple agreed that the children would spend five weeks in England with their father. During their visit the mother and father exchanged emails in which they argued about maintenance. In one such message the father told his former partner that if she was “not happy with the maintenance … I can take custody back”. In her reply the mother said “OK take custody”.

The father took that response as consent and told her that the children would stay in England with him and that he had enrolled them in an English school. The mother therefore launched proceedings under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction to try and secure the return of her children to France.

She told the High Court in London that the email reply about custody had been “a slip of full thought and [had been sent] in anger” and vehemently denied the father’s suggestion that it amounted to her consent.

Mr Justice Baker agreed with the mother. He declared that even if the email did represent her agreement, “manifestly that consent was withdrawn”. He ordered that the three children be returned to their mother’s care in France.

D (Children : Abduction) is available in full online. Read it 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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  1. Barbara says:

    While everything the mother said sounds plausible and Mr Justice Baker probably made the right decision, this must be extremely upsetting and frustrating for the father. What would constitute actual consent?

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