I’ve often written here about the international nature of modern families. These days it is commonplace for the courts here to deal with cases in which families, or parts of them, regularly cross international borders. That means, of course, that sometimes children may sometimes no longer live in the same country as one of their parents.
Such was the situation in the case Hammoud v Al Zawawi, decided by Mr Justice Holman in the High Court last November, but the judgment of which only recently appeared on the Bailii website. The case concerned, amongst other things, a mother’s applications for child arrangements orders in respect to her three children.
Profoundly sad case
Mr Justice Holman began his judgment with the following words, so familiar to anyone who follows family law:
“This is a profoundly sad case in which three children, who love and wish to have a relationship with both their parents, are suffering because of the animosity between their parents.”
The background of the case was as follows:
- The father is a citizen of Oman and lives there. The mother is a citizen of Lebanon, but she currently lives in London.
- The parents married in 2005, and the family initially lived in Oman.
- They have three children, all born in Oman: twins aged 12 and a girl aged 9.
- In 2015 the family moved to live in London.
- The marriage finally broke down in about 2017. The father obtained a divorce in Oman.
- The father returned to Oman in January 2018. The mother and children remain in London. I should say that there is a question over the immigration status of the children, but I will not go into that here.
The mother applied for child arrangements orders to the effect that the children live with her, and making provision as to the time they spend with their father. The father did not engage with the English court, save to say that he believed that it was in the best interests of the children for them to return to Oman and that he, therefore, asked the court to make an order that the children relocate to Oman, to live permanently with him.
Mr Justice Holman was in no doubt that it was in the best interests of the children to remain in this country, with their mother. They are settled here, and they clearly wish to remain here with their mother. It was, therefore, appropriate for there to be child arrangements orders providing for the children to live with the mother.
Further to that, Mr Justice Holman felt that there could be no possibility in the foreseeable future of the children visiting or staying with their father in Oman, or indeed anywhere outside England and Wales. The father had repeatedly defied orders of the English court, including to pay a maintenance order, despite clearly having the funds to do so. He had also breached an undertaking he gave to the court not to issue any proceedings in the jurisdiction of Oman in relation to the children. He had obtained an order from Oman to the effect that the children should be removed from their mother and should live with him. If the children were to visit Oman even for a holiday in these circumstances, the risk that they would not be returned was so high as to be completely unacceptable.
Accordingly, Mr Justice Holman could not make any provision for the children to spend time with their father outside England and Wales for the foreseeable future, and any contact here should have an independent third person present, as a safeguard against removal.
Mr Justice Holman concluded his judgment by expressing the ‘fervent hope’ that the father would accept that, subject to the immigration issue, the children would remain living here for a long time to come, and that he would travel here to see them.
You can read the full judgment here.