Disciplining forum and process shopping. Mostyn J in I and L.

A quick note on [2020] EWHC 893 (Fam) I and L (children), in which Mostyn J berates and effectively disciplines a father’s abuse forum and process shopping.

At 11:

‘I pause at this point to reflect on the actions taken by the father. Not only did he act in bad faith, as I have explained, but he also was guilty not only of blatant forum shopping but also of process shopping. If the father had genuinely developed misgivings about the wisdom and merits of the parenting agreement signed by him on 5 August 2019 then the appropriate place to raise those misgivings was the court in South Africa [the habitual residence of the children, GAVC]. Instead, by a ruse de guerre he lured the mother and children to this jurisdiction where he immediately started proceedings in the forum which he considered to be most favourable to him. By striking pre-emptively he also selected the process which he considered most favourable to him. Had he merely retained the children on 3 January 2020 and awaited the mother to take steps in response she would, unquestionably, have raised a case under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction. In such a process the welfare of the children, while being an important consideration, would not have been the paramount consideration. Instead, the court would have started with the position that the children should be returned to the place of their habitual residence unless the father could demonstrate a defence.’

In the end he held that under the Children Act, in which the welfare of the children is the paramount criterion, a return to their habitual residence (to be effected as fast as possible following the end of Covid-19 lock-down) is in their best interest, thus torpedoing the abuse. Clearly like in QD, the English courts do not appreciate cloak and dagger manipulation of forum or process.

Geert.

 

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