In what has been described as a highly unusual decision, two English boys who disliked living in France with their mother have had their wish to remain in the UK with their father granted by the Court of Appeal.
The two boys, aged 11 and 16, were taken to France by their mother in 2005. At that time neither spoke French and they found that they were unable to settle into their new life. When they came to England to visit their father, in July 2007, they refused to return to France. Their mother alleged that the father had abducted the boys and started court action to recover them.
The court was critical of the mother’s attitude towards her sons. She was described as dealing with their concerns by ignoring or stifling them and closing her eyes to their problems.
Lord Justice Thorpe, one of the three Appeal Court judges who heard the case, commented that he had “rarely, if ever, heard such strongly expressed views by children of this age.” The mother was refused the right to appeal against the decision and will now have to apply to the court for contact arrangements with the boys to be settled.
Although this case was described as ‘not just exceptional, but very exceptional’, the courts are paying an increasing amount of attention to the views of the children involved when matters of residence are concerned. With one in six marriages in the UK now involving a spouse from abroad, such ‘cross-border’ disputes are likely to become more common.
Reported in the Times, 8 November 2007.