A six year-old boy should be returned to Northern Cyprus, the High Court has ruled, despite an acrimonious relationship between his parents.
In D v D, the father had applied for the boy’s return, against the opposition of the mother.
The parents married on the Mediterranean island in 2009 and the boy, ‘D’, was born there. In 2015 the marriage broke down and the mother filed for divorce, claiming the father was violent. He denied this. The mother won care of D, with the father ordered to pay child support. A regular contact schedule was drawn up.
The following year, following a failed reconciliation, the mother took ‘D’ with her on a trip to Britain. It was initially intended as a holiday, noted Mr Justice Baker in his ruling.
“The father agreed to the trip on that basis and even drove the mother and D to the airport. On 31st August 2016, however, the mother sent a text message to the father telling him that she was not returning. Since that date, the mother and D have lived in South London with the maternal grandmother and uncle who live in this country.”
The father then flew over in an effort to get D back to Cyprus in time for the new school year, launching legal proceedings in both London and Cyprus. The mother countered by applying for a non-molestation order , which was granted. This prohibited the father from coming within 100 metres of the mother’s home or from “sending any threatening or abusive text messages or other communications to the mother, save through solicitors.”
An additional ‘prohibited steps’ order, meanwhile, forbade the father from taking D out of the country. Contact between D and his father was ordered, via Skype and in person.
At a High Court hearing in October, Mr Justice Baker noted the key facts of the case. These included:
“Both parties accept that D is and was at all material times habitually resident on Northern Cyprus and that the mother has retained him in the UK after a holiday without the consent of the father.”
The mother continued to insist that the father had threatened, harassed and been violent to her, sometimes in front of D, saying he had on one occasion even broken her leg. But he would only admit to having made threats and denied all the other claims.
She submitted examples of the threatening and abusive text messages she claimed he had sent to her and her family after she failed to return from her trip to England. These were translated into English from Turkish.
A Cafcass officer investigated the family, contacting a domestic violence shelter in the Cyprus as well as the Cypriot Police. The officer “concluded on the basis of the mother’s allegations that there was a high risk to her and her family”, explained the Judge.
In court the mother’s counsel admitted that while D had said he missed his life in Cyprus “that is not enough to justify an order for return.” He argued that the Court must benefit any benefits to be gained from a return against any physical risk to the mother and the stress she would experience if ordered to return.
The father was a “man of means” and could afford to visit his son in the UK and in the UK D could enjoy close ties with his mother’s family.
Nevertheless, Mr Justice Baker concluded that D should return, saying there were “strong arguments” in favour of this despite the animosity. These arguments included the fact that Northern Cyprus was the boy’s home and the place where he has always lived. Back on the island he would enjoy a close relationship with both parents “to whom he is obviously devoted.”
During interviews with the Cafcass officer, the Judge noted:
“He was able to articulate in a strikingly clear way for a child of his age that he wanted to return to Northern Cyprus. A return is therefore plainly in accordance with D’s wishes and feelings. Although not decisive, I find that both his wishes and feelings are significant factor in this case.”
Read the full ruling here.