Father unable to enforce order for contact with his children
A father has been unable to enforce a court order for contact with his children because no official body was prepared to provide supervision.
The case involved a father and mother who had two children in England.
They moved to Estonia in 2008, but in 2013, the mother returned to England with the children. The father applied in the UK for a return order under The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980.
The court declined because, while there was no risk of harm to the children, aged 12 and 13, they objected to being returned.
In the meantime, in Estonia, the father had obtained an interim contact order which required him to have contact “in the presence of ... a competent child welfare authority”.
He applied in the UK to enforce the order but the court held that while the order was valid, it could not be enforced because, in the circumstances, no child welfare authority or child care professional was willing to supervise contact and the court could not compel such supervision.
The father appealed quoting EU regulations and suggesting that the court in the UK was obliged “to make it happen” by requiring the local authority to provide supervision or by assigning supervision to an organisation such as the Anna Freud Centre or an independent social worker.
The Court of Appeal ruled against him. It held that under the general scheme of EU regulations on contact judgments, a domestic court was not entitled to vary the "essential elements" of a judgment that it had been requested to enforce.
Please contact Sheetal Patel or Lorna Barry if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.