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International Family Law

The leading authority on international family law

15 APR 2013

Re J (Habitual Residence) [2012] EWHC 3364 (Fam); (2013) ICLLR 003

Abduction - Removal of 7 year old child to USA - Spent entire life with grandmother in UK - Whether the child's habitual residence had altered - Whether the English court had jurisdiction


3 December 2012

Family Division

Peter Jackson J


The now 7-year-old child was left with her maternal grandparents in the UK by her mother when she was a year old. The mother and child did not have contact during that time, except for video contact more recently and the grandmother was granted a residence order. From an early stage following a DNA test confirmed paternity the child's father and the paternal grandmother played a significant role in her life and had contact including overnight stays. During contact with the paternal grandparents they took the child and flew to the USA having made arrangements to emigrate. They informed the maternal grandmother via text and told her they thought the child needed to see her mother, who was living in the USA. After a brief stay with the child the paternal grandparents left the child with her mother and her partner and children. The father was granted parental responsibility without notice and orders declaring him to be the child's father as well as a return order. The paternal grandparents and the mother challenged the jurisdiction of the English court.


Finding the child to be habitually resident in the UK; finding the English court had jurisdiction - The question of habitual residence was one of fact. Considerable weight was attached to the reality of the child's situation and lesser weight to the legal technicalities. The reality was that she had spent her life living with her maternal grandmother in the UK and she had not lost that status due to her contrived removal to the USA. Her roots in this jurisdiction were deep and her habitual residence did not change as a result of her legally insecure removal (see para [44]).

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