August 11th, 2017
The Court of Appeal have rejected a father’s attempt to overturn a ruling that there was no practical way to enforce a contact order issued abroad. The case concerned two sisters, aged 12 and 13. The child’s father was Estonian and the Mother was English. The parents had married in 2002 and lived together in England until 2008, where their daughters were born. They then moved to Estonia and lived there till 2013, when the marriage broke down. The mother returned to England without the father’s consent with the two sisters and her two older children from a previous relationship.
The father made an application for the return of his daughters under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. In her defence, the mother relied on Article 13b of the convention, which states that;
“there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.”
The mother claimed that the father had subjected them to domestic violence and sexually assaulted their oldest daughter. Mr Justice Roderic Wood ruled that protective measures in place meant that the threshold for a valid defence under Article 13(b) had failed. However he ruled against the father on the grounds that the two sisters objected to returning.
The father applied for contact in the Estonian courts. Following a series of hearings, he was granted an order which stated he had the right to see the children once a month, in the presence of a third party. The mother was ordered not to interfere by the Estonian courts. The Estonian authorities acknowledged that the girls had not met their father for more than a year at that point and might be reluctant to see him. Nevertheless, the order was described as being in the children’s best interests.
Mr Justice Moylan considered the father’s application to have the order enforced and concluded that while technically valid, it was not practically enforceable in this country. This was because the Estonian authorities had specified that visits had to be supervised and there was no authority or professional available to conduct this supervision.
In the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Black reiterated Mr Justice Moylan’s decision. She declared that enforcing the order would place obligations on the Local Authority that could not be done and there was no practical way to enforce the Estonian order. The father’s appeal was dismissed.
Stacey qualified as a Solicitor in 2011 having completed her training with Hine Solicitors in Beaconsfield. Stacey has since worked for the Legal 500 firm, Duncan Lewis Solicitors in London. Stacey has extensive experience in all areas of family law including advising clients in relation to co-habitation, divorce, matrimonial finances, pre & post-nuptial agreements. Stacey was delighted to join specialist practice Hawkins Family Law (The Legal 500 2015 recommends the team as “exemplary”) in February 2016 and has considerable experience resolving children issues whether they are in relation to where a child should live or issues regarding contact.
Hawkins Family Law fields 'a very professional team that delivers a high-class service and has strength-in-depth from senior to junior level'. Managing director and team head Jo Hawkins provides 'clear and accurate advice and moral support through often testing times for her clients; she focuses on deriving the best long-term outcome for her client and other parties'. The practice has particular strength financial matters, including divorce and ToLATA proceedings. Other key figures include Loraine Davenport, who has strong collaborative law expertise and handles complex children cases and high-net-worth ancillary relief matters; Annabel Hayward, who focuses on complex financial provision and co-habitation matters; and Stacey St Clair.
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