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International Child Custody Case: A Comprehensive Legal Approach

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Posted in: Family and children
Date published: 05/01/2024

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Introduction to International Child Custody Disputes

In the realm of family law, international child custody cases present unique challenges. These cases often involve complex legal frameworks across different jurisdictions, requiring a nuanced understanding of various international laws and conventions. This case study exemplifies our expertise in handling such intricate matters, focusing on a case that spanned across the UK and Poland.

Case Background: A Cross-Border Dilemma

Our client, the mother of a young girl, faced a complex legal challenge. After her separation, she travelled to Poland with her daughter, initially with the UK court’s permission. However, the situation escalated when her child disclosed being sexually abused by her father and paternal grandfather. Consequently, the mother decided not to return to the UK, prioritising her child’s safety.

Commencement of Legal Proceedings

Legal complexities arose when the father sought the child’s return to the UK, initiating actions under The Hague Convention in Poland. His application was rejected by the Polish court under Article 13(b) of Convention,. Undeterred, he appealed this decision, though the Polish court upheld the original decision (and, also potentially relying on Article 20 of the Hague Convention). The father concurrently filed an application with the UK High Court under Article 11 ofthe Brussels IIA Regulation for a return order In spite of the UK High Court making a return order in July 2019, the father took no action to seek to enforce that order until the start of 2022.

Our Legal Strategy and Actions

  • Application for Discharge of UK Return Orders: When instructed by the mother, the child was a Ward of the court and return orders were made in 2017 and 2019. we focused on discharging the UK High Court orders for the child’s return to the UK. Our argument centred on the child’s well-being, given the grave allegations of sexual abuse, as well as the change of circumstances since the orders had been made some 3 and 5 years prior.
  • Addressing the Child’s Psychological State: The child, then around thirteen, expressed a strong opposition to returning to the UK, even making threats of self-harm. We highlighted these aspects to emphasizes the psychological impact of a potential return on the child.
  • Navigating Dual Legal Systems: We addressed the challenges posed by the concurrent proceedings in Poland and the UK, ensuring that each jurisdiction’s legal intricacies were properly considered.

Legal Developments and Challenges

  • Discharge of UK Court Orders: We successfully argued for the discharge of the UK court’s return orders from 2017 and 2019, a rare achievement under Article 11 of the Brussels IIA Regulations.
  • Jurisdictional Issues: The Polish courts, in light of the, at the time, ongoing criminal proceedings against the father and grandfather, removed the father’s parental rights and prohibited contact with the child. We contended that the Polish courts were the appropriate forum for the case, given the child’s established residence and the ongoing legal actions in Poland.

Outcome and Resolution

  • Final Jurisdiction Decided: After intense legal proceedings, the UK High Court agreed to transfer jurisdiction to the Polish courts. This decision was in line with our argument that the Polish courts were better suited to handle the case.
  • Child’s Welfare Secured: Ultimately, the child was allowed to remain in Poland with her mother, without any obligation to return to the UK or maintain contact with the father’s family. This decision took into account the serious allegations of abuse and the child’s expressed fears.

Conclusion: Expertise in International Family Law

This case emphasises the importance of expert legal intervention in international child custody disputes. Our firm’s strategic approach, grounded in a deep understanding of international legal frameworks, was pivotal in securing a favourable outcome for our client. The case highlights the complexity of such disputes and the necessity of prioritising the child’s welfare above all. Our success in this case demonstrates our commitment to providing comprehensive legal support, ensuring the protection and best interests of children in international custody battles.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

To find out more about our services, visit International children matters and contact disputes section of our website.

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Published by:

Oana Preda – Solicitor

Family Law – IMD Solicitors LLP

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