J v J (Return to Non-Hague Convention Country) EWHC 2412 (Fam)
31st August 2021
Judgment: Both parents were British citizens with Overseas Citizens of India status, and both had been living in India. One day before the first court hearing in child welfare proceedings brought by the father, the mother had flown their five-year-old son to England. The father now applied under the court's inherent jurisdiction for the summary return of their son to India, and asserted that this was a "hot pursuit" case. The application was opposed by the mother, who alleged domestic abuse and coercive behaviour. Cobb J reached the clear conclusion that it was in the boy's best interests to be returned to India forthwith, and for his future to be determined in the courts there. He was habitually resident in India, while his situation in England was at best transitory and fragile; for example, he was not attending school here. In Cobb J's judgement, the mother's clandestine and unilateral action in bringing the boy to England had been primarily prompted by her wish to avoid engaging in family court proceedings in India. The allegations of domestic abuse had been laid before the Indian court in the child welfare proceedings there. In his view, the risk of harm to the mother from the alleged abuse could be appropriately mitigated by the protective measures offered by the father, the fact that she could return to live with her parents, and the availability in India of civil law process (the equivalent of non-molestation proceedings). He was satisfied that the Indian court was appropriately seised of child welfare proceedings regarding the child.