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(Family Division; Sir Nicholas Wall P: 23 June 2010)
When the child was aged 2 the unmarried parents entered into a French agreement in which the father acknowledged paternity and financial arrangements were agreed. Both parents moved to London and lived in the same apartment. The agreement incorporated into it a French court order. Neither the agreement nor the French judgment expressed to be exclusive. The parties agreed to seek mediation in the family court in the event of difficulty. In fact the parents lived separately in London and at first the father paid sums substantially in excess of the agreement, but then reverted to agreement sums. The mother applied under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 for the father to resume the sums he had been paying. The mother intended to relocate to France but the father wanted to stay in London.
Held that the mother was bound by the agreement and subsequent court order. Although Brussels I, Art 23 states ‘such jurisdiction shall be exclusive unless the parties agree otherwise', the parties had not so agreed. The agreement to seek mediation could refer only to mediation in French court. The English jurisdiction could arguably have been engaged by registration of the French order and by its variation. Fresh proceedings in England flew in the face of Brussels I. If the mother wanted to proceed in England she needed a powerful argument for variation, but registration and variation would be her only option, not an application under Schedule 1. However, the mother should now apply in France for a variation, although the judge recommended the parties settle through negotiation.
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