The UK Supreme Court’s decision:
Comprising of five judges, led by Lord Wilson, the UK Supreme Court unanimously overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal. It posed two questions:
- Can the inherent jurisdiction be used as a basis for the summary return of abducted children?
- Was the Court of Appeal’s approach flawed in this case?
The Supreme Court determined the answer was ‘yes’ in relation to both questions. The decision serves as a stark reminder that decisions in relation to the relocation or return of children across borders must be dealt with carefully and with proper regard to the rights of parties to put full and considered evidence before the court.
In overturning the decision of the Court of Appeal, the UK Supreme Court identified that there are eight questions that the Court should consider in cases of this nature. They include the consideration of up-to-date evidence, whether a fact-finding hearing is required in relation to any disputed allegation of violence, what the existing and proposed living arrangements would be for a child upon return, and whether a Cafcass report is required.
“This decision is one that will be welcomed not just by international families but also by lawyers working with international families. It goes a great way in assisting the quiet conflict between domestic laws and international obligations concerning children across borders. We are grateful to Reunite International, the International Centre for Family Law, Policy & Practice, and The International Academy of Family Lawyers for their interest and input in this case.“