Nigerian children’s return to Ireland rejected

Family Law

The High Court has rejected a Nigerian father’s bid to have his children return to Ireland from England.

The children’s parents were both citizens of Nigeria and married there in 2007, even though the mother had been living in Ireland since 2003. Following their wedding, the mother returned to Ireland while the father stayed in Nigeria. Despite only seeing each other “from time to time”, the couple had two children who stayed with their mother, as did her daughter from a previous relationship. This arrangement continued until 2013 when the father finally joined the family in Ireland.

Unfortunately, the parents’ relationship had broken down by 2015 and the father moved out of the family home. Each of them has since made “allegations of violence and abuse against the other”. In November of the same year, the father obtained a court order for access to his two children. This stipulated that he could see them twice a week, for two hours at a time at the mother’s house.

The order also stated that neither parent could “remove the said children from the jurisdiction of this court without having first obtained the consent in writing of the other party” or permission from the court. However, the following year the mother travelled to England with all three of her children. As she had become an Irish citizen in the time she had been living there she was freely able to enter the UK.

In response, the father launched legal proceedings for his children to be returned using the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This is a multinational agreement designed to facilitate the return of children taken abroad by one of their parents.

At the High Court in London, Mr Justice Holman rejected the mother’s claim she had permission for the move from the father. He noted that the Irish court order explicitly said such consent had to be in writing, and she did not have any such statement.

However, another of her arguments was more substantial. Under the Convention rules, a return can be denied if doing so would place the children “in an intolerable situation”. The mother claimed she had “never received a penny of financial support from the father throughout the lives of the children” and would not be able to afford a place to live in Ireland. Additionally, her now-14 year-old daughter had settled in England and did not want to return. She had lived with her two half-siblings for their entire lives and they did not want to be separated.

The father was not present for this hearing but did submit a written statement in which he insisted that he had “a close and loving bond” with his two children and that they could live with him because the local authority would “provide a suitable property” for them. Mr Justice Holman pointed out that there was no evidence for this claim whatsoever.

The Judge added there was also “a huge lack of reality in the suggestion by … the father that the children could simply move to living with him in Ireland” as “for many years he was a completely absent father”. Making an order for the return of the two children would not only separate them from their mother and half-sister, it would place them in “a very uncertain situation with a father with whom they have not stayed at all for a long time” he declared.

Mr Justice Holman concluded that the two “cannot return with their father” and refused to make such an order.

Read AJA v FIA in full here.

Photo by morebyless via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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