English court asserts jurisdiction in child dispute

Children|June 29th 2016

The courts of England and Wales have jurisdiction in an international dispute between two parents, the High Court has ruled.

PKA v CJC concerned the care of boy born in December 2012. His American father and English mother met and married while the father was serving in the US military and stationed in Germany. In March 2012, the father was posted back to the US and was joined there by his wife. The couple lived together in the southern state of Georgia.

The mother later claimed she was the victim of “the most appalling violence” at the hands of the father while she lived in the US and was “shocked and relieved” when he suggested that she move back to England. He encouraged her to buy one-way tickets for her and their son and said he would join them shortly afterwards, she insisted.

To the mother’s relief, he did not move to England. In fact, when she briefly returned to the US to collect some clothes and documents she had left behind, she discovered that the father now had a new girlfriend even though they had not divorced. At no point during this brief visit did the father claim that the mother had taken their child from him illegally.

However, after she and her son had been living back in England for three years she was told that the father had launched legal proceedings back in the US. He had petitioned for divorce and asked to be given sole custody of the child. His applications were all approved by an American judge and in a later hearing a criminal arrest warrant was issued against the mother for taking the boy to England.

In response, the mother applied to the High Court for a declaration that the case should be decided in England. Mr Justice Holman said that the boy “has always lived with his mother” and while it may be beneficial to have a relationship with his father “that ball, frankly, is firmly in the court of the father”. He added that the father knows the mother’s contact details as he has been informed of the current proceedings but had “not made the slightest effort or step to engage or seek contact”.

The judge declared that the boy was “habitually resident” in England and therefore the English courts should have jurisdiction over the ongoing case. He also ruled that the child should continue to live with his mother and that the father was “forbidden and prohibited … from removing the child” from her care.

Read PKA v CJC in full here.

Photo by Paul Hamilton via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

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