A mother who left her son with his father in Florida will have to return to the United States with their daughter, despite her claims of domestic abuse the High Court has ruled.
The case concerned a couple of Pakistani origin. The father had lived in the United States for a number of years before entering an arranged marriage back in Pakistan. The couple had only met each other a couple of times in the week leading up to the ceremony.
His new wife followed him back to the United States and they are both now US citizens. They went on to have two children, a son – now eight – and a daughter, now five. Both were born in Florida, where the family now live.
At the beginning of May this year, the mother travelled to Pakistan and then England with their daughter, staying with family in the Sheffield area. The father began legal proceedings for the return of his daughter, under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
In response, the mother put forward two arguments. She denied abducing the daughter at all, saying the father had, in fact, insisted she accompany their daughter on her journey to Europe. He had given them a one-way ticket she claimed, thereby stranding them on this side of the Atlantic.
In addition, the mother argued, returning the girl would expose her to the “grave risk” of physical or psychological harm, an allowable defence under the Convention. The father and his parents had abused her throughout their 12 year marriage she insisted.
Unsurprisingly, the father strenuously denied these claims. Sitting in the High Court, Mr Justice Holman noted:
“One frequently sees considerable dispute between the parents as to the facts in cases of this kind. But it is not often that one sees such a polarised case with very severe and grave allegations on the one hand and almost total denial on the other hand.”
If the couple only had one child, the Judge continued, or if both were with the mother in England, then he would have to consider whether her claim of abuse had been substantiated and what measures could be taken.
“But, in this particular case, the mother is in an acute dilemma. She says very strongly that for all the reasons set out in her statement, she and indeed the daughter cannot be expected to return to America. On the other hand, if what the mother alleges in her statement is even partially true, it is impossible to envisage that the father would ever agree voluntarily to the son, who remains living with the father, travelling to England in order to see his mother and sister here.”
In addition, the family courts could have no jurisdiction at all in relation to the couple’s son, who has born in the United States and remains there.
In a concise judgement of just 20 paragraphs, Mr Justice Holman concluded that the mother would have to return to America in order to resolve the case.
“…the reality of this case is that even if, in other circumstances, this mother might have a good defence … to a summary return of the daughter to America, she herself must, sooner or later, face up to travelling to America. So, the reality is that what needs to be considered at this stage, either by agreement between the parents or by adjudication by the court, is the protective measures and safeguards which should be, and can be, put in place to provide as much protection to the daughter and her mother as is appropriate until matters can be properly and fairly resolved in America, if necessary by litigation.”
A further hearing was scheduled for November 23.
You can read MA v RA here.