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Entries in Cross Border cases (2)

Tuesday
Jul072015

How a court can enforce contact orders

Following hard upon recent Scottish and English judgements concerning malicious allegations, child abduction and contempt of court, a judgement this week by HH Judge Newton in Manchester shows how essential it is for courts to take quick and firm action to restore contact arrangements.

FNF Scotland hopes that this marks a renewed determination by judges and sheriffs to hold parents firmly and swiftly to account when contact and residence orders are wilfully broken or undermined. 

In this case, a court order was made on 25th May 2015 for the Swedish-based father to have regular periods of direct and indirect contact with his children in England and to ensure that the children maintain their links with the Swedish part of their heritage.  The father was also trying to maintain their contact with the maternal grandfather, from whom their mother was estranged.

The case returned to court on 26th June 2015 because on 22nd May a planned ten-day contact visit in Sweden between the children and their father did not place as the result of an incident at Manchester Airport.  On 10th June the mother wrote to the court indicating that she was not intending to facilitate further contact between the children and their father.

The incident at Manchester Airport involved the mother and children turning up at 6pm for a 6.30 flight to Sweden (boarding closed at 6.10).  The resulting fracas as the father tried to board the flight with his children led to police intervention and a missed flight.

Commenting on the parent's accounts of this incident and other difficulties since the contact order, the Judge said: "I found the mother wholly unconvincing, both generally and specifically in relation to what happened on 22nd May 2015. Put bluntly, I am satisfied that she has lied.  The father was careful in his evidence. His warmth and concern for the children was readily apparent. I accept his evidence."

The context, summarised in the first paragraph of HH Judge Newton's findings, is regrettably common: " I am persuaded that, essentially, the mother does not value the father's contribution to the lives of the children and, in reality, would much prefer to be able to get on with life with her new husband and baby without what she sees as the intrusion of contact arrangements."

The judgment relates various ways in which the mother had sought to undermine contact, noting that " ... on the father's visits, whether in the UK or Sweden, the children are sent in, literally, the clothes in which they stand up and with their passports in their hand: no change of clothing, no favourite toys, nothing to cuddle, no books, not even a toothbrush. When the father visits the UK, he is obliged to bring those items with him on the plane from Sweden. The same situation applies even when the children stay with him for four weeks during summer holidays. The message this sends to the children as to the totally separate existences they have with each parent is deeply unfortunate and unhealthy."

Judge Newton comments: "This is a father who has much to offer his children. He has proved remarkably committed, making, I accept, 37 flights from Sweden to the UK last year alone to see his children. I find the mother's objections to contact ill-founded. Were I to accede to her submissions, it would give her yet further opportunity to attempt to undermine the children's relationship with their father and it would be extraordinarily difficult thereafter to reintegrate the father into the lives of the children."

Thursday
Oct062011

Scottish Government agrees action on cross order jurisdiction

Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs has
agreed to take steps to increase awareness of proper procedure in family
law cases where children are taken from Scotland to England or Wales
without the agreement of the other parent.

The problem arises when courts in England or Wales wrongly assume
jurisdiction in cases of this type, rather than returning the case to be
heard in Scotland.

Following a recent meeting with Families Need Fathers Scotland at which this
issue was raised, Ms Cunningham will issue fresh guidance on
cross-border jurisdiction, and she will also raise the issue with the
UK Ministry of Justice.

Families Need Fathers Scotland  pointed out to the Minister that it can
be easier to have children returned from the other side of the world
than from England.

"We are grateful to the Scottish Government for taking action on this
issue," commented Ian Maxwell from FNF Scotland.

"We  know of several recent cases in which fathers have found it either
very difficult or impossible to have children returned to Scotland from
south of the Border"

"If Scottish children are taken outside the UK without permission or in
breach of a court order, they would be returned promptly  to the
Scotland under the provisions of the Hague Convention on child
abduction."

In their first meeting with the Minister, Families Need Fathers Scotland
also raised issues about Parental Rights and Responsibilities and access
to legal aid and explained how our work in Scotland is developing,
including the emphasis on promoting shared care as a way of ensuring
both parents are involved with their children after separation.