A mother, who claimed that Jersey was relatively “devoid of culture” and that her baby son would receive better education and healthcare if taken him back to her native country, has failed to persuade a Court that she should be allowed to remove him from the island.
She had argued that the costs of bringing the child up in Jersey meant that he would receive a better start in life if she was allowed to take him back to her home – despite the objections of the father, with whom she was no longer in a relationship.
In a two-day hearing before the Royal Court’s Family Division Registrar, Samantha McFadzean, the mother had applied for permission to remove the child from the island so that she could bring him up with her family in her own country after her relationship with the child’s father broke down.
However, in a judgment which the Registrar described as “neither an easy decision nor an obvious outcome”, the Court declined to make the order, so that the child will remain in Jersey.
Pictured: The mother argued that life in Jersey was "difficult and expensive" and that her child would enjoy a better quality of life in her home country.
“On balance,” said the Registrar, “I find that the compelling factor is the risk of emotional harm to the child which would inevitably result from being at a great distance from his father at this age and without any certainty that the Mother would promote and foster in the child a sense of the importance of the other parent.”
No details of the family, nor the country to which the mother would have returned, have been made public to protect the anonymity of the child, but the Registrar had to weigh the competing claims of the mother, who wanted to bring the child up with its grandmother and aunt in their family home, with the father who lives in Jersey close to his own family.
The Registrar heard that the child was born in Jersey in 2017, two years after its parents began a relationship. But by the beginning of 2018, the relationship had become an acrimonious one and the father left the family home to return to his parents.
Both the mother and father later moved into separate rented accommodation and the mother received benefits to look after the child. In March last year, she made a legal application for permission to remove the child from the island.
Advocate Chris Hillier, representing the mother, argued that the quality of life for both mother and child would be improved if she were allowed to take him out of the island.
“The mother finds life here to be ‘difficult and expensive’ and is particularly concerned about meeting the child’s health needs given her financial position. She described life in Jersey as very expensive for a single person, particularly with no support from the Father other than for maintenance for the child of £100 per week,” the Registrar said, summarising the mother’s evidence to the Court.
The father, who was represented by Advocate Giles Emmanuel, told the Court that his former partner was ‘controlling’, had made threats against him and tried to prevent contact between the child and his own family.
So difficult had their relationship become, the Court heard, that the two parents would not speak to each other either by phone or in person and would only communicate by email or through their lawyers.
Although the Jersey Family Court Advisory Service had no concerns about the quality of education or healthcare in the mother’s native country, it did express concern about the impact that the move might have on the child’s view of his father.
Giving her judgment, the Family Registrar said that had the relationship between the parents been better, the plans for relocating the child would have been compelling. The child would have had the opportunity to become familiar with a culture which formed part of his identity and would have been able to discover the history of his mother’s family.
“I have to weigh up the benefits to the child of getting to know his Country A family well, not only against the loss to the child of his twice weekly visits with his Jersey grandparents but also the risk, prayed in aid by the Father, that…any further similar falling out could result in a significant further loss for the child”, the Registrar said.
She directed that the child would remain in Jersey with its mother but ordered that she could travel with him to her native country “so that the child can benefit from a nascent relationship with his maternal family”. She granted the father weekly contact with the child of two overnight stays and one evening, following the recommendation of JFCAS.
“With the threat of the removal application now removed for, I hope, the foreseeable future, I expect that the parents will now take steps whether through mediation or family therapy to re-establish a working relationship for the child”, she said.
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