Sunday 18 March 2018

Father who wrongfully kept son (13) in Ireland must return him to his mother

Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan said boy should experience second-level school in England

Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan is presiding
Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan is presiding

Tim Healy

A man who wrongfully removed his 13-year-old son from England during a trip over here for a rugby match must return the boy to his mother today pending legal proceedings in the UK, the High Court ruled.

The boy, who had been attending secondary school here since last April 28, has told a psychologist he wants to remain in Ireland, but Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan said he should experience second-level school in England from now until term ends there on July 21 so he can have experience of both school systems.

The relationship between the mother and father, who are Irish and were never married, deteriorated in 2013 after the family had the previous year returned from Spain where they had lived for two years.  From around the time of the child's birth in Ireland in 2001, until 2010, they had lived in Ireland where the child also attended primary school.

They moved from Spain to the midlands of England in December 2012 and a year later the mother left the family home and stayed with her sister although she enjoyed unrestricted access to the boy who was still living with his father.

Last February 5 (2014), the father travelled with the boy to Ireland for a rugby match in a friend's van which was packed with all their belongings.

The father decided they would stay here and they were accommodated by his (father's) sister for a time before moving in with friends.  The father says the former family home they had in Ireland, which they rented out when they moved to Spain, is about to become available to him to live when the existing tenant's lease ends

The mother obtained a court order in England requiring the boy's return and proceedings were taken in Ireland seeking enforcement of that order under the Hague Convention governing child abduction.

In her judgment ordering the boy's return, Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan said in dispute was the extent of discussion between the parents about the move to the midlands of England.  It was agreed however that the father took the boy to visit a school in Birmingham and it was his (boy's) preference at that time to remain in England and attend school there.

It was not in dispute the father wrongfully removed the child from England, the judge said.

The mother wants him back to attend school in England and says the boy has been manipulated by the father to form or express the view that he wanted to stay here.

A clinical psychologist, who interviewed the boy for the Irish court proceedings, disagreed.

The boy told the psychologist he never felt he fitted-in in England, sees both his grandmothers here, enjoys his friends here, including those from his primary school days, and is still to able to remain in contact with his mother but did not want to live in England.

Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan found as a fact, on the totality of the evidence, that the boy does object to returning to England and feels settled in Ireland.

However, his views of England were not entirely negative and seemed to relate mainly to his desire to continue schooling here, the judge said.

His mother said there was a place available for him to continue schooling in England until the end of the term there on July 21.

Accordingly, the judge directed that as the Irish school term ended last week (May 30), she was exercising the court's discretion that he should be returned to England from June 4 on condition that he attend school there until July 21.

She also requested an expedited hearing of  the outstanding proceedings brought by the mother in England which could determine by the end of August (beginning of new Irish school term) which jurisdiction he should live and go to school in.

It appears desirable the boy have a further period at school this year, given his earlier absence from school, and that he have an opportunity to have the "double experience" of schools in both countries.

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