The welfare of children is always top of the list of priorities of the Family Court when making arrangements following the break-up of a family. This can be especially difficult where the parents are from different countries, as shown by a recent case in which the Court considered the welfare of a child of a Mexican mother and an English father.
When the child, aged seven, had expressed a wish to return to live in Mexico, the CAFCASS official appointed as the child's guardian recommended that this did not occur. When the child was 18 months old, the mother had taken her to Mexico to visit her family for what was intended to be a short holiday, but had stayed there. It took four years to obtain the return of the child to the UK, in the face of deception and obstructions put in place by the mother.
Recently, the mother expressed the wish to go to Mexico to see her elderly father, and to take the child with her. The mother has formed a new and lasting relationship with another English man and lives in the UK. She claimed to be 'in a different place' now. The judge commented at length that there were obvious risks of a repetition of the earlier events if the application were granted.
The hearing made it plain that careful safeguards would be required and a substantial financial bond would have to be put in place by the mother to enable the father to recover the child should legal proceedings be necessary. In addition, part of the earlier separation agreement would have to be redrafted.
As the issue was not capable of resolution at the hearing, a further hearing has been scheduled for mid-March 2019 and a final hearing for July. CAFCASS was reappointed to act as the child's guardian, with a recommendation that the same officer be appointed.