Russian mother forbidden from leaving the country with her children

Children|September 23rd 2016

A Russian mother of two has been forbidden from leaving the country with her two children.

In Re W (Minors) the brothers in question were ten year-old ‘A’ and his much younger sibling J, who recently turned two. The mother married J’s father in Russia in 2012 and her second child followed in September 2014. A was the product of a prior relationship.

The couple moved to London shortly before J’s birth, setting up home in a small flat in the East End.

In a High Court ruling, Mr Justice Mostyn noted:

“Their relationship was stressful and stormy. Their problems were probably aggravated by the inadequacy of their accommodation. However, I think the father is probably right when he says, candidly, in his witness statement, that ‘both the respondent and I are stubborn and bad tempered and therefore this does not assist the situation.’ ”

In June this year the couple split up and the mother moved to a secret refuge with the two children. At that point, her immigration status and that of A were under investigation by the Home Office.

After the mother left, the father asked the High Court to locate J, under its inherent powers. He also applied for permission in relation to A, the older boy, as he held no parental responsibility for him, and also sought a ‘prohibited steps’ order forbidding the unlocated mother from taking the children out of the country.

The father’s application for a location order was granted the same day. The local authority revealed the mother’s address to the tipstaff (court official) and her passport was confiscated.

Around the same time the mother successfully applied for a non-molestation order and did so on an ex parte basis – i.e. without the father’s presence.

The case before Mr Justice Mostyn. He declared that in the circumstances it would be “appropriate” to make an order “forbidding the mother from removing A from the jurisdiction, or from his present address for the time being” as well as “an order that the mother must not obtain any further document which would enable A to leave England and Wales.”

He added:

“I confirm in this order that the port alert which already exists in relation to J should be extended to A.”

The Judge was very critical of the earlier decision to grant the mother an ex parte non-molestation order of one year’s duration.

This ruling had, he declared, clearly been made contrary to practice guidance issued by the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, in October 2014. This had stated that ex parte orders should not exceed 14 days before a review involving both parties.

Mr Justice Mostyn stressed the importance of balancing the interests of alleged victims with those made the subject of a non-molestation order. He also took issue with an editorial preface in the 2016 edition of Family Court Practice, which includes the practice guidance issued by Sir James. This editorial note claimed that the practice guidance had been impractical and left victims of domestic violence in a vulnerable position.

This claim, said Mr Justice Mostyn, was “intemperate, disrespectful and legally wrong” and had effectively encouraged judges to ignore the guidance.

Read the ruling here.

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