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WJV v SR [2021] EWHC 2303 (Fam)

24th August 2021

Judgment: The father sought the summary return of his two sons, aged 6 and 4, to the Republic of Zambia, invoking the court's inherent jurisdiction. The children had lived with their mother in England since August 2020. The mother resisted the application, submitting that the children had acquired a new habitual residence in this jurisdiction, and that the court thus had jurisdiction to conduct a full welfare enquiry under the Children Act 1986. Roberts J decided that the children were habitually resident in England, and had been at the time of the father's application. It was of particular significance that the home in which they now lived had been specifically purchased as a family home, with the specific consent of the father, before his change of heart about moving. There was no reasonable basis on which to conclude that a return to Zambia was in the children's best interests, given, for example, the father's precarious financial position, and the mother's previous unhappiness there. The cumulative effect of a return in the circumstances was likely to be wholly inimical to the interests of the children, who were now settled in their homes and schools in this jurisdiction. Roberts J thus refused the father's application for summary return.