A brother and sister brought to Britain by their father should be returned to their mother in Canada, despite a complicated and acrimonious legal history.
The English parents met in 1998 when the mother was still just 17. Their first child followed in 2002 and the second three years later. They eventually married in 2005.
The following year, just a few months after their marriage, the family moved en masse to the province of Alberta in western Canada. A highly disputed incidence of domestic abuse led to the family separating in 2009. The father spent some time in police custody and also underwent therapy.
The mother applied for primary care of the two children and insisted the father only be allowed supervised contact.
This was granted on an interim (temporary basis) in 2009. She also received sole decision making authority in relation to the children.This was later made long term, but with the father’s weekly contact becoming unsupervised. Included in the order was a prohibition on either party leaving Alberta without the permission of the other.
The situation took an abrupt turn for the worst in in 2013 when the father suddenly alleged that the mother had begun work in the sex industry and also that she took class A drugs. The mother denied both allegations and the father was unable to substantiate them.
An emergency protection order was granted to the father, however. The mother said she felt pressured and insisted hat the relationship had been a “deeply abusive one”. The father later applied once again for full custody.
In September last year he succeeded, receiving primary care and full decision-making powers. The mother disputed the hearing, claiming she had not received notice. By this point she had not seen her children for almost two years, before the emergency protection order was issued.
By that time, the father was back in Kent with the children, now aged 14 and 11, having travelled back in May 2015. Despite the Canadian court’s decision, the mother launched an application of the return of the two children to Canada in November last year, more than 12 months after their arrival, having been alerted to the intervention of social workers. The father resisted, arguing that‘A’ and ‘B’ to Canada that mother had agreed to the move and the children were settled, amongst other grounds.
Not long afterwards, the local authority, Kent County Council, began formal care proceedings, as a result of which A and B were placed with foster families. Both told their legal guardian that they didn’t wish to return to their father and would prefer to go back to Canada and see their mother again.
Sitting in the High Court, Mr Justice Francis noted that new information regarding the father had come to light during the various court proceeding. A former girlfriend had claimed he was abusive and threatening. The mother, meanwhile, discovered that he had a history of mental illness, something of which she had previously been unaware.
The Judge said:
“It must, I suggest, be obvious to anyone reading the history which I have recounted that it would be quite impossible to describe these children as settled in the United Kingdom. They are anything but settled and are still the subject of care proceedings, albeit that those care proceedings have (as I have said above) been stayed [postponed] until the determination of these proceedings.”
“In my judgment, there is no evidence whatsoever that the mother acquiesced in the removal of the children from Canada to the United Kingdom. In fact, it seems that quite the opposite is the case.”
Read the ruling here.