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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

06 DEC 2012

CARE PROCEEDINGS/JURISDICTION: Bridgend County Borough Council v W and Another [2012] EWHC 3118 (Fam)

(Family Division, Moor J, 3 October 2012)

The mother had an extensive history of mental health difficulties, excess alcohol and illegal drug taking, she had self harmed and made suicide attempts and had several times been a psychiatric in-patient. One of her children had already been removed from her care. The mother and father formed a relationship and the mother became pregnant. The local authority were involved due to the family history and also because the parents' relationship was alleged to be volatile and aggressive and the mother was sectioned twice during the pregnancy. They failed to co-operate with the local authority and the mother continued to misuse drugs. The father was convicted of threatening to kill the social worker.

When the parents were informed that the baby would be removed from their care at birth they fled the country and travelled to Spain. The baby was born in Spain and the parents discharged her from hospital despite her needing treatment for sepsis. The Spanish authorities obtained an order to return the baby to hospital. The parents agreed a plan of intervention where they would permit the authorities into their home.

The local authority in the UK applied for an emergency protection order and arrangements were made for the child to be located. The Spanish and English authorities communicated and the Spanish authorities sought the child's removal.

The parents' relationship broke down and the father returned to the UK. In Spain the authorities removed the child from the mother's care and placed her in a children's home from where she was collected by the UK social worker. The local authority sought an interim care order which was contested by the mother who claimed the child was habitually resident in Spain and she should, therefore, be returned there, albeit to local authority care initially, she eventually sought a return to her care.

The mother failed to establish the child's habitual residence in Spain. The parents did not make a considered decision to relocate to Spain, they simply fled the country on hearing of the local authority intentions. The mother had continued to claim income support as a UK resident. The child's habitual residence followed that of the mother. The parents and, therefore, the child were on the run. The child had never stepped foot in the UK and was not habitually resident here either. However, since her removal by the authorities the child had been present in the UK and, therefore, the English court had jurisdiction. It was not in the best interests of the child to return her to Spain. If she were removed from local authority care she would be at significant risk of harm and so the court made an injunction preventing her removal from the jurisdiction.

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