The Italian mother of a five year-old boy has won her appeal against a ruling that she cannot move back to the country with him.
His father was also an Italian national. The couple had originally met as teenagers. Both later moved to the UK for work. Their son, ‘D’, was born in England in March 2012. Not long after the birth, the father lost his job so stayed at home to look after his son while the mother was out at work.
During a later return visit to Italy, the father, ‘L’, was criticised by his in-laws for not having a job and being able to support his family and the parents’ relationship began to break down. By the time they returned to the UK they had become estranged but continued living together.
Then, early last year, the father discovered that the mother was planning to leave their home so he broke their tenancy agreement and asked the Police to seize their son’s passport to prevent her from leaving the country.
Despite the animosity the parents agreed to share care of D in the months leading up to a family court hearing in January at which the parents disputed who should be D’s primary carer as well as an application by the mother for permission to move back to Italy with her son.
At the hearing, a Cafcass office backed the mother, Ms Justice Russell explained.
“The court heard from both the parents and from [name removed] the Cafcass officer who had … recommended that D’s main carer be his mother who should be given permission to relocate to Italy, while acknowledging that there would be a loss to D as he has a close relationship with both parents.”
The mother’s application was based on multiple complaints made about the father’s “controlling and emotionally abusive behaviour”, which, if accepted as truthful, would be sufficient for a charge of coercive control.
But the Judge declined to order a fact-finding hearing and as a result the claims of abusive and controlling behaviour were not investigated. Ms Justice Russell declared:
“It is questionable whether a decision about his care and the continuance of a shared care regime could have been properly informed and such ignorance is likely to have been antipathetic to his best interests.”
The mother launched an appeal.
Despite being a High Court hearing, the appeal was staged in at the Family Court in Oxford. The mother case was allowed on the grounds that the original judge had not resolved the issue of D’s future care before dismissing the mother’s application for relocation. In addition, no finding had been made in relation to the claims of abuse.
Ms Justice Russell explained:
“It is not clear from the judgement why the judge considered it appropriate not to carry out any fact-finding, as if there was any basis for them, [the father]’s behaviour towards F is ultimately likely to have an effect on D.”
The case was remitted to the lower courts for a rehearing.
Read F v L here.
Image by Victor via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence