Toddler should not be returned to ‘manipulative’ father in Iran High Court rules

family law

A two year-old girl should remain with her mother in Britain, the High Court has ruled, despite her father’s application for her return to the Middle East.

The case concerned a girl referred to in judgements as ‘A’. In September last year, her mother brought her to Britain from Iran, without the father’s knowledge or consent, saying she was fleeing an “unhappy and oppressive marital relationship”.

Mother and daughter both hold joint UK-Iranian nationality and the girl was born in this country, so both were legally able to remain here. The mother still applied to the courts “to preserve and protect her and A’s presence in England.”

The father countered at the end of last year with an application for the return of A to Iran. By April the mother was living in Manchester at an address unknown to the father. When the case reached the Family Division of the High Court, the father attempted to have the proceedings adjourned for “an indeterminate period of some months” but this was refused. Instead a five day hearing went ahead, during which the mother’s claims were examined, including her allegation that the father had been violent towards her, as well as the specifics of Iranian domestic law.

Hight Court Judge Sir Peter Singer noted that despite the apparent antagonism between the parents:

“…perhaps surprisingly, the mother has, so far as I am aware, always supported the proposition that the father should maintain contact with their child and, even more importantly, the other way around, that their child should maintain a relationship with the father. To that effect, more or less without problem, as far as I am aware, relatively frequent contact has taken place, I think as often as two or three times a week, between father and child via Skype, on those occasions when he has not been in England.”

The Judge added:

“That is laudable. It is excellent that the parents have been able to see through their own problems to the need for them to maintain, for their child, her consistent acquaintance, knowledge and love with and for both her parents.”

He went on to consider whether or not A should be returned to Iran, living there with either her mother or her father.

In his judgement, Sir Peter explained that he had found the father to be “controlling” and “manipulative”. He referred to an instance in which the father was said to have encouraged the mother to enter a lesbian relationship and Sir Peter thought this meant that, although she had done so willingly, she had nevertheless “acted under a degree of control and pressure.” The father had involved himself in these encounters and took photos and videos which he at one point claimed to have deleted, only to later say he found them again.

To quote Sir Peter:

“She says, ‘How do I know he deleted them?’ He says ‘You saw me delete them’. However, later he told her ‘Ah, I have found them again, by the grace of God‘. Clearly, that was to put pressure on her. He more or less agreed that that was so; why else would he have said it?”

The evidence suggested, he continued, that the father had given up on any hope of reconciliation and was attempting to pressure the mother into returning A by threatening to withhold the divorce she had asked for.

The Judge explained:

“I take it, on the expert evidence, to be more likely… that if the mother were to return to Iran with the child and remain married, both she and the child would be subject to significant influence, coercion and control by the father, which would be entirely in accordance with their traditions and beliefs, and which would be supported by the Iranian courts in case of conflict.”

The Iranian courts would inevitably take the father’s side in the event of any return, he said, and restrict the mother’s freedom of movement. Iranian law also meant that once A reached the age of seven, the father would be able to leave the mother’s home and go and live with him. The authorities in Iran would also be unlikely to honour any agreement made between the parties prior to the mother and A returning.

Sir Peter explained:

“Therefore, we come to the essence of it, which is the extent to which I, and the mother, can or cannot rely upon the father’s protestations that he will abide by what he has said he will, or might do, in the same way as he says he has abided by the relatively minor constraints which the English court has put upon him, or encouraged him to observe thus far in these proceedings: not to search out where the mother is living or, to attempt to remove the child from her immediate care.”

Consequently, he concluded

“…I shall reject and dismiss the father’s application for A to be returned to Iran. It follows from that, that she will remain here. There is, as I have said, no immigration problem about that, she was born here, her mother is entitled to live here, she is entitled to live here. I will confirm and, I hope, stabilise that situation by orders designed to make it clear that A’s residence is with her mother, but that that should be subject to appropriate contact between father and child, not only by Skype when they are continents apart, but also in person…”

Read S v S here.

Photo of Tehran, Iran by Ninara via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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