Parents at loggerheads over mother’s career plans

Family|August 7th 2017

The mother of an eight year-old boy should be allowed to continue living in the Middle East despite the father’s opposition, a family court has ruled.

‘FW’ is, said William Tyler QC, sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge:

“…an outgoing, markedly articulate, intelligent, companionable and resilient boy who greatly loves both of his parents.”

His parents, both English, met in 2008. FW was born the following year. His mother and father separated in 2012. They remained on good terms, however, and the boy continued to see his father regularly.

Judge Tyler quoted the mother discussing the father’s involvement:

“He has remained involved, interested and enthusiastic about FW’s upbringing.”

The mother completed university and teacher training. A friend had moved to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for work and she decided to follow her there. After some initial reluctance, the father agreed to the move, initially for a period of one year, believing his son might benefit from experiencing life in the UAE.

He even took the mother and FW to the airport for their flight out. She had found well-paid work at a “private British curriculum school” in the country. He flew out to visit them the following month and considered moving to the country himself, ultimately deciding such a move would not be practical.

Since that time he has visited on two subsequent occasions, once with his current partner and once on his own. FW has also come back to Britain for visits with his father.

When the mother first mentioned the possibility of staying in the UAE for longer than the agreed one year, the father initially said he might agree but later claimed FW himself had given an “immediate and vehement response” to the idea, saying he did not like living in the UAE and wanted to return to England. As a result, the father announced that he could not support an extended stay.

Judge Tyler explained:

“There followed an uncharacteristic but significant breakdown in the parents’ relations with each other.  I have seen WhatsApp messages between them in March 2017, which amply demonstrate the depths to which the situation sank.  I have also heard a covertly recorded telephone call between the parents which took place on the day of the first directions hearing before me on 22nd June 2017.  I hesitate to describe the contents of that call as a ‘conversation’: it was really no more than two adults in overt disagreement, angrily talking over each other.”

He added:

“The mother tells me that she recognised that their dispute was insoluble and that their interactions were becoming toxic and so she decided to put the matter into the hands of the court.  On 28th April 2017 she made an application for a child arrangements order.”

The Judge set out the parent’s opposing, equally fervent stances and quoted Mr Justice Hedley’s observation in an earlier case: that one of the parents would inevitably be “dealt a crushing disappointment”.

He continued:

“It is for that reason – that is, that by the end of my judgment one of the two adults sitting before me will feel that their world has been, if not devastated, then certainly rendered a very much bleaker place – that I thank them both at the beginning rather than at the end for their behaviour during this trial.”

Both had been litigants in person, he explained, and both had behaved with “restraint and courtesy”.

To no one’s surprise, the Judge found in favour of the mother. If forced to return to England, she would face diminished employment prospects he reasoned. If she lived in the north, to be close to the father as he wished, she would be cut off from her family and friends. She would also be, in the Judge’s words:

“…a mother with her dreams crushed and forced, to her mind, into a prison, long distant from family and friends elsewhere in England and even further from the life she wanted for herself and FW in the UAE.”

If she lived in the south as she hoped to if forced to return, the father would find it more difficult to see his son during term time.

But if the mother was allowed to remain the UAE, FW would continue to see his father regularly as he had been doing and also continue to enjoy a good standard of living with a happier mother.

In the Matter of FW can be read here.

Photo of Dubai by Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0

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