The Court of Appeal has settled a dispute between two estranged parents who each wanted to take their children abroad but objected to the other having the same right.
The mother was a national of Qatar and the father was a national of the United Arab Emirates. The children lived in England with the mother. Each parent sought the court's permission to take the children for temporary visits to Qatar and Dubai, respectively.
Each objected to the other having permission, claiming there was a risk that the children would not be returned to England.
Neither the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 nor the Hague Convention on Parental Responsibility and Child Protection 1996 applied, and there was no cross-border legal framework under which the issue could be regulated.
The judge heard evidence from an expert on Middle East law. The expert indicated that an English court order dealing with such matters would be neither recognised nor enforced in a court in the UAE or Qatar.
He was asked questions concerning the likely effectiveness of an order from the UAE and Qatar courts in which both parents committed to return the children to England under agreed terms.
The expert indicated that he had not heard of a case in which the local court had refused to accept an agreement, or where an agreed order had later been challenged.
Although he was clear that he was not saying that such an order would be effective, he also said that in normal circumstances the court would be expected to enforce it once it had accepted the agreement and turned it into a local court order.
On that basis, the court gave permission for the children to travel to the relevant states on condition that before the children were permitted to travel, written agreements had to be lodged and made into orders of the UAE court and the Qatar court.
The mother submitted that the judge had failed to properly address the magnitude of the risk that the children would not be returned.
The Court of Appeal rejected that argument and upheld the judge’s decision.
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Case Citations: Document No.: AC5010536,  EWCA Civ 277RE M (CHILDREN) (2020), CA (Civ Div) (Lewison LJ, Moylan LJ)
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