Children choose to live with mother after fleeing from father
Two children caught up in a parental dispute have been allowed by the High Court to choose to live with their mother in England.
The children were aged 17 and 14. Their mother and father were Spanish nationals who had moved to the UK in 2004. The relationship had broken down and the father had returned to Spain in 2012 while the children remained living with the mother in England.
Proceedings were brought by the father in Spain and the mother in England. The Spanish proceedings concluded in 2018 with an order that the children should live with the father in Spain.
Throughout, the children made it clear that they wished to remain with the mother in England. Child arrangements orders were made in England for the children to remain with the mother and the court provided for the father to withdraw all proceedings in Spain.
However, he applied to the Spanish court for an order that the children should be detained by police and placed with him if they went to Spain.
Following a holiday in Tenerife in 2020, the mother was arrested, and the children were forcibly placed with the father before they fled to France and were placed in foster care there.
They gave evidence that the experience had caused them great distress. A French court ordered their return to England.
The children applied for wardship orders and a variation of existing child arrangements orders so that they could live with their mother in England.
Their witness statements claimed that the father refused to acknowledge their feelings, that they wanted no contact with him and that the result of his actions had been a curtailment of their freedom to travel as they were afraid of the consequences for the mother.
The court granted their applications.
It held that the children's welfare should take priority over the adults' dispute. They had experienced trauma and had been caused emotional harm and considerable worry over their mother.
Their evidence showed that the father had a blatant disregard of the longer-term effects on the nature of his relationship with them.
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Case Citations: AE v M Family Division,  EWHC 1957 (Fam) Russell J
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