An interesting case involving an order for the return of a child to his father in The Netherlands was reported recently in Family Law Week.
The case began after the breakdown of a relationship whereby the mother of the five year old child was resident in England and the father lived in The Netherlands. At the time of the final hearing, the mother was heavily pregnant and due to give birth in early November 2015. The father was subsequently granted a return order, although it was understood that the child in question would not be accompanied by either parent, but would be met by Dutch social services on arrival in Holland.
Given these circumstances, presiding judge MacDonald J allowed for a short delay of six weeks in the implementation of the return order, so that relevant arrangements could be made and it was agreed that the child would return on 13 November 2015.
Within a few days however, the mother notified her solicitors that she would indeed be accompanying her son before she gave birth. Shortly thereafter, she produced a letter to the court and stated that she had been advised not to fly, although there was no content in the letter which supported this view. Indeed, there was no evidence that she had sought this medical advice at all.
On 9 November 2015 the woman gave birth and two days later, she applied to vary the return order, requesting to accompany her older son to Holland on 28 November. Dutch authorities duly provided documents to the court detailing travel arrangements, although these then needed to be translated. During this time, the court permitted the mother to collate medical evidence in support of her application, as well as apply for a passport for her new baby.
At a subsequent hearing, she stated that she required a further two months to be able to travel safely, although MacDonald J found that there was no medical evidence to support this. Subsequently, the woman’s application to vary the return order was dismissed. A social worker was made available to meet the child in Holland on 17 November 2015. The child was then placed with social services and a hearing was fixed in that country for 23 November.