Child Abduction Conference 2017 – London

I have today booked a place at the 1 King’s Bench Walk annual child abduction conference which I have attended for the past two years.  Profits to to the charity Reunite International.  It is being held in London on 10 February 2017 and the programme is as follows:

1KBW CHILD ABDUCTION CONFERENCE

10TH FEBRUARY 2017

CHAIR – RICHARD HARRISON QC

9.15 – Registration and coffee

9.45 – 10.00 – Introduction

10.00 – 10.25 – Habitual Residence – Katy Chokowry

10.30 – 11.00 Article 13 – Nicholas Anderson

11.05 – 11.35 – coffee

11.40 – 11.55 – Ex parte applications – Tom Dance

12.00 – 12.25 – The voice of the child – Jennifer Perrins

12.30 – 12.50 – The Inherent jurisdiction – Samantha Ridley

12.50 – 13.00 – Reunite

13.00 – 14.00 – lunch

14.00 – 14.25 – CAFCASS

14.30 – 14.55 – Setting aside orders – Jennifer Palmer

15.00 – 15.25 – Enforcement of return orders – James Turner QC

15.30 – 15.40 – Mediation – Anthony Kirk QC

15.45 – 16.00 – questions

16.00 – close

 

New international child relocation rankings reveal that Belgian courts are the least likely to grant a relocation order

The first ever international child relocation rankings, compiled by the Penningtons Manches family law team, reveal that Belgium is the jurisdiction least likely to allow a parent to relocate with a child internationally. The courts in New Zealand, Denmark and Scotland are also particularly reluctant to allow one parent to take a child out of the country permanently without the agreement of the other parent.

At the top of the rankings, the five countries most likely to allow international relocation – particularly for mothers – are Greece, Japan, Ukraine, Israel and Turkey.

Penningtons Manches’ second international family law report, entitled Can we go or must we stay? The International Child Relocation Rankings, reviewed comparative data from 22 countries in Thomson Reuters’ International Relocation of Children, A Global Guide from Practical Law 2016. This comprises Q&A guides on international child relocation law and practice in 31 key jurisdictions.

Relocation cases are increasingly common in many jurisdictions – including England and Wales which came fourteenth in the rankings – and the legal position is continually evolving to reflect the realities of international family life. Unsurprisingly, countries with a large international workforce see the most international relocation cases but this does not mean that they share the same approach when considering a case.

The current position in England and Wales

If there is a child arrangements order (CAO) in place, a parent must not remove a child from the UK without the written consent of all parental responsibility holders or leave of the court.

The overriding principle remains that the welfare of the child is paramount. The court will also have regard to what is known as the ‘welfare checklist’ which includes factors such as the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child, the likely effect on them of any change in their circumstances, and any harm which the child is suffering or is at risk of suffering.

Although that central principle made clear by the case of K v K [2011] EWCA Civ 793 remains, relocation law is continually evolving. There is a clear and continuing trend towards recognising the importance of greater paternal involvement. Judges in England and Wales do not automatically assume that the mother will be the primary carer and we are seeing more parents sharing the care of children equally.

The English courts are also reluctant to permit temporary leave to remove a child to countries such as the United Arab Emirates which are not signatories to the Hague Child Abduction Convention.

The international relocation rankings – some country observations

  • The most surprising result is Belgium, a country with a reputation as an international hub and the home of the European Parliament. Relocation orders are considered to be very difficult to obtain even though the majority of cases seek to relocate to another European country.
  • At 14 in the rankings, England and Wales do not rank highly as an easy location from which to relocate a child but its position reflects the discretionary, nuanced approach to each case which results in a careful analysis of the impact which a proposed moved would have on the child.
  • The United Arab Emirates has a highly international population where the majority of residents are foreign nationals and there are many relocation cases. But the legal system has not caught up with the population’s desire to relocate and a father has a far greater ability to prevent relocation than the mother.
  • Jersey has a similarly international populace to the UAE but has adopted a pragmatic attitude to relocation. Only 35% of Jersey’s population were born in Jersey. If no residence order is in force, permission is not required to remove a child from Jersey.
  • New Zealand’s isolated geographic location means that relocation cases are always subject to particularly intense scrutiny and cases are difficult to win for the parent wishing to relocate.
  • The European states vary widely in their approach to relocation law despite the free movement between the member states. While Greece and Ireland are likely to allow relocation, France and Spain adopt a careful and balanced approach to the merits of each case and both parents must agree.
  • The individual states within the USA also have different approaches. While Pennsylvania is one of the most likely to allow relocation, Florida takes a more cautious view and the decision is heavily dependent on the individual judge.

Commenting on the findings of the report, international relocation partner Anna Worwood, said:

‘While we have been surprised by the varying approaches to relocation across the jurisdictions – particularly for international hubs such as Belgium – we are encouraged by two strongly emerging trends across the majority of the 22 countries we reviewed.
The most welcome trend is the growing recognition of the courts that the voice of the child is the one that must be heard above all others when considering relocation cases. As the impact of moving a child away from one parent can be devastating for the family, the decision must be based on the interests of the child.
While some jurisdictions still tend to allow more mothers than fathers to relocate with a child, the growing significance of greater paternal involvement in the upbringing of a child means that it can be more difficult for mothers to win their cases without the father’s permission.
The second trend is the strengthening of the laws to protect children by preventing one parent from relocating with a child without the permission of either the other parent or the courts. In many jurisdictions, the removal of a child without consent constitutes the crime of abduction and the parent will face criminal charges.’

A copy Penningtons Manches’ International Family Law Report: Can we go or must we stay? The International Child Relocation Rankings is available to download here.

Source:  “New international child relocation rankings reveal that Belgian courts are the least likely to grant a relocation order”, http://www.familylaw.co.uk/,  29 November 2016

Happy 8th birthday

It is your 8th birthday today.  Your 6th in Japan.  I hope that you have a very good day, and one filled with blessings, in all that you do.  Another year and, amazingly, you will be half way to becoming an adult.

It has been reported that it is going to very very cold in England this week, even by November standards, and a lot colder than where you are.

See below for some items that I mailed to you earlier this month.  I was told by the Post Office clerk who processed the package that it should have reached you mid-to-late last week so I trust that it got there on time.

Happy birthday!

birthday-2016-4

birthday-2016-3

birthday-2016-2

birthday-2016-1

Above:  your birthday card and presents as mailed to you

birthday-2016-5

Above:  Post Office shipping receipt, 18 November 2016 

India unlikely to accede to Hague Convention

The Tribune

Posted at: Nov 6, 2016, 9:51 AM; last updated: Nov 6, 2016, 4:54 PM (IST)

Govt likely to junk inter-parental child abduction Bill

New Delhi, November 6

Despite international pressure, the Centre is likely to junk the Bill on inter-parental child abduction, which deals with child custody issues for NRI couples, and would have paved the way for India’s accession to the Hague Convention.

The Law Commission, though, recently submitted its report to the Law Ministry sticking to its 2007 stand advising the government to accede to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction (1980).

(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)

“We are very clear that we are not signing the Hague Convention. This is a decision collectively arrived at by the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA),” said a senior WCD Ministry official.

On June 22, 2016, the WCD Ministry had uploaded on its website a proposal to enact a draft of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Bill, 2016. Subsequently, the draft Bill was placed on the website seeking comments.

The draft Bill was prepared following a reference made by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to the Law Commission of India and the WCD Ministry to examine the issue and consider whether recommendations should be made to enact a suitable law and for signing the Hague Convention.

However, the Bill has since been removed from the Ministry website.

The draft envisaged “prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained in a contracting state, and to ensure that rights of custody and of access under the law of one contracting state are respected in other contracting states.”

It also proposed a central authority to discover the whereabouts of a child, to prevent further harm to any such child and to secure the voluntary return of the child to the signatory nation.

WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi has expressed apprehension over acceding to the Convention at several forums, primarily on two grounds — that taking such a decision will not be in the interest of aggrieved women and because the government maintains that there are fewer instances of Indian children being abducted and taken abroad.

At an event last month she had said, “Personally, in the beginning, when I was new, I thought we should join the Convention because we get protection. But with time and after interacting with women who have been abandoned by their husbands abroad, had their passports snatched from them, been beaten up, and have somehow scraped the money and are in terrible fear, I wonder whether we should join or not.”

The draft Bill also made it clear that a decision under the Hague Convention to return a child would not be final and courts will have the power to deny custody on certain grounds.

These grounds are two-fold — firstly, if the person having the care of the child was not actually exercising the custody rights and secondly, if he/she put the child at a grave risk of physical/psychological harm.

The Law Commission report had an additional exception to Hague Convention: “The person who is allegedly involved in wrongful removal or retention, was fleeing from any incidence of domestic violence.”

It also recommended a jail term of one year for any parent or family member found guilty of wrongfully retaining or removing a child from the custody of the other parent.

Legal experts say that while the Hague Convention does have safeguards for women, India can also have a domestic law with stronger protection and then accede to the Convention.

“The Convention is to protect the interest of children. It is not for protecting the interest of the women. However, Article 13 of the Hague Convention states circumstances under which the child can’t be ordered to be returned. Additionally, according to the draft prepared by the WCD Ministry, the central authority can decide whether to accept or not an application demanding that a child be returned.”

However, the draft bill also then specifies exceptions under which a child can’t be returned. So, there is a three-tier protection available to women,” according to Anil Malhotra, who was the amicus curiae when the Punjab and Haryana High Court gave its recommendations on the matter.

“Not signing the Convention is not a good idea. This is like going backwards. If you make safeguards, checks and balances, you should sign the Convention and become a part of a civilised order whereby free movement of children is allowed,” Malhotra said.

There is immense international pressure on India, especially from the US and the UK, to accede to the Convention.

Susan S Jacobs, special adviser on children’s issues, the US State Department, had met WCD Minister Gandhi on September 15. There are at least 80 cases where an Indian parent has removed the child from the US and brought them to India.

The Hague Convention, signed by 94 countries, provides for a mechanism to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another. —PTI

Source:  “Govt likely to junk inter-parental child abduction bill”, The Tribune, 6 November 2016 

Further reading:  “21st Law Commission releases its first report on international parental child abduction”, Live Law website, 1 November 2016 

Universal Children’s Day

The irony that Universal Children’s Day falls on the anniversary (yesterday) of my son’s abduction was not lost on me – all the more so as the focus of the day seems from yesterday’s piece in the Telegraph (below) seems to be more on refugee children rather than the many victims of domestic and international family law arrangements.

The Telegraph

What is Universal Children’s Day and why is Google celebrating it with a Doodle?

What is Universal Children’s Day?

Established by the United Nations in 1954, Children’s Day is marked on November 20 each year to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare.

The UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child on November 20, 1959, and then 30 years later it adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child on that same day.

The convention, which is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, lays out a number of children’s rights including the “right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence, to not be discriminated, and to have their views heard”.

 

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said Universal Children’s Day was “an annual opportunity to recommit ourselves to protecting the rights of every child”.

Google is marking Universal Children's Day with a doodle
Google is marking Universal Children’s Day with a doodle CREDIT: GOOGLE

“These children are the future leaders of their societies. The future engines of their national economies. The future parents and protectors of the next generation.

“When we protect their rights, we are not only preventing their suffering. We are not only safeguarding their lives. We are protecting our common future.”

Best five Google DoodlesPlay!02:46

How is it celebrated?

As well as Google marking the day with a Doodle in its search engines around the world, the UN children’s body, Unicef, launched a short stories week to celebrate the day and to mark the agency’s 70th anniversary.  More than 200 prominent writers penned “tiny stories” – each around seven lines long – to highlight Children’s Day and the challenges many of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged children still face.

“As writers we are able to advocate through the simplicity of storytelling. With this worthy and necessary campaign, we advocate for the protection of the rights of precious children all over the world,” said Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie.

Among the writers is one the world’s youngest published authors – seven-year-old Michelle Nkamankeng from South Africa.

“It is shocking to see that the lives of many children are still so heavily impacted by the horror of conflict, inequality, poverty and discrimination. I hope these Tiny Stories can remind the world that we must sustain our commitment to all of these children whose lives and futures are at stake,” said Paloma Escudero, Unicef spokesperson.

State of the world today for children

In many developed countries, children have never had it so good, with access to education, health care, the internet and much more.

But millions more are facing unprecedented upheaval. More than 50 million children have been uprooted from their homes due to conflict, poverty and climate change while millions more face violence in their communities. According to the UN, around 263 million children do not attend school and last year nearly six million children under five died from mostly preventable diseases.

This picture of a wounded Syrian boy captures just a fragment of the horrors of AleppoPlay!00:40

Children in Syria are living in fear every day. The relentless bombardment forced schools in east Aleppo, many of which already operate from basements because of government attacks, to close on Saturday and Sunday “for the safety of students and teachers, after the barbarous aerial strikes”, according to humanitarian coordinator for Syria Ali al-Za’atari and regional humanitarian coordinator Kevin Kennedy. Staff were forced to evacuate the east’s only children’s hospital because of repeated attacks, removing babies from incubators.

“On this Children’s Day, we must confront the uncomfortable truth that around the world, the rights of millions of children are being violated every day,” Anthony Lake, Unicef Executive Director, said.

Children collect firewood amid the rubble of Aleppo this week
Children collect firewood amid the rubble of Aleppo this week CREDIT: REUTERS

“They’re being violated in eastern Aleppo and other besieged areas across Syria, where children are cut off from food, water, and medical care,” he said, adding their rights were also being violated in Yemen, northeastern Nigeria and South Sudan.

“They’re being violated around the world, in every country, wherever children are the victims of violence, abuse and exploitation,” he said.

How to help

There are many ways to help promote children’s rights and donate money, but one of the most high-profile causes in the UK is Children in Need, which took place on Friday.

This year the live Appeal Show raised a record total of nearly £47 million in a night of tributes to the late Sir Terry Wogan – an impressive rise from last year’s total of £37.1 million.

Announcing the sum, Presenter Rochelle Humes said: “That’s absolutely incredible and I just know how proud Sir Terry would have been.”

Children In Need aims to protect every child in the UK and currently supports 2,400 projects across the nation.

Source:  “What is Universal Children’s Day and why is Google celebrating it with a Doodle?”, Telegraph online, 20 November 2016