Return to Russia?
Sacha Lee, working with Carolina Marin Pedreño, acted for the mother in her successful application for a return order pursuant to the 1980 Hague Convention after two of the the parties’ children were wrongfully retained in this jurisdiction by the respondent father.
Following an agreed holiday to London, the father retained two of the parties’ four children, aged 12 and 6. He returned the eldest child, aged 13, to Russia to the mother where they lived with her (the youngest child did not travel to London at all). Following the mother’s application, the father raised the defences of Article 13b, including child objections. The High Court Cafcass team prepared a report.
This case is the first return ordered to the Russian Federation following the start of the war in Ukraine and Mr Justice Williams’ judgment provides essential guidance for future cases involving potential returns to Russia as follows:
Reiterating the law on Article 13b and child objections, Mr Justice Williams held that the 6-year-old did not meet the threshold. However, he held that the 12-year-old’s strong preference to remain did amount to an objection and therefore judicial discretion was engaged.
Mr Justice Williams rejected the father’s allegations in respect of the mother and maternal family. He also rejected his concerns in respect of a potential deterioration in the 12-year-old’s psychiatric state should a return be ordered as the protective measures offered were sufficient.
Mr Justice Williams rejected the father’s Article 13b defence in respect of his political activism against the Russian regime. Particular reference was made to the following:
- The father had returned the eldest child to Russia;
- There was an absence of evidence to suggest that the children would be at specific risk in Moscow of experiencing the war currently being waged in Ukraine; and
- There was an absence of specific (as opposed to generic) evidence of risk of the father and/or the children being targeted as a result of the father’s dissidence.
Accordingly, Mr Justice Williams exercised his direction in respect of the 12-year-old and ordered his return, along with the 6-year-old to Russia, via Lithuania. The children were returned to the mother’s care on 16 May 2023.
Read more about child relocation and child abduction in the UK.
Read more about child abduction.