Today’s headlines have been dominated by the decision of a mother to ignore a court order to allow her daughters to move to Ukraine without consent from their father. These cases can be extremely difficult for all involved. Refusing permission to return your children home after a breakup can be devastating. The same goes for the possibility of your ex-partner moving away with your children, decreasing the quality and quantity of time they have with you.
The mother in this case was denied permission to return to Ukraine. However, she took her children with her to live in Ukraine. The consequences of a parent making this unilateral decision can be devastating. While the parent with the child is more likely to give valid reasons, the parent without the child is often terrified by the unknown and the fear of not knowing what the future holds.
It can be extremely distressing and traumatic for children. Children whose educational and personal development were affected by such a move have been shown to me. Anxiety reigns and families are torn apart.
First, it is important to determine if the country from which the children were taken is a signatory of the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. There should be a procedure for the child’s return if it is. However, some cases can prove difficult – especially when the first step is to locate the children’s family law lawyers surrey bc advising parents must be quick to think creatively and act quickly. The additional problem, in this case, depending on where the children are being taken or have been, is that Ukraine is not a signatory of the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. However, it has stated that it is unable to guarantee its obligations in certain areas because of the Russian Federation’s occupation and control over certain districts. The Russian Federation, which is also a signatory to the Convention, refutes this position and says that it can and should be respected. This case makes the father more concerned about the possibility of a return.
Family Court cases involving children almost always take place privately, with reporting restrictions to keep children from being identified by the media. The Times and others requested permission from the High Court to report this case. As they are experienced in handling sensitive situations, I ask our media team to assist me whenever the media becomes involved in any of my family matters (not just this one). It is important to take a multidisciplinary approach when making such crucial decisions. The media’s role in a case can have a major impact on the outcome. It is important to consider whether the media involvement will benefit the child, as once they are engaged with the media, it will not disappear.
The court will need to decide how to balance the rights of the children and their privacy, while not neglecting the parents and the right to freedom of expression within the context of the child’s best interests. In cases where the mother has not followed the court’s orders, her right to privacy will be less persuasive. However, the best interests of the children are balanced with the possibility that publicity could help bring them back. While parents may prefer to keep their children private, the media might be able to help locate them. The Court will have to make sure that the best interests of the children are the main focus in any decision regarding media reporting. This case is one I am following closely.
While we wait for the Court of Appeal’s decision on whether the photograph and name of the mother who kidnapped her children to Ukraine can go public, a High Court Judge Mr. Justine Williams has taken action via Twitter to help find Olly Sheridan who has been missing for six months, along with his mother Elly.
Olly’s parents are involved in family court proceedings. To reassure Olly’s mom Elly that he would treat her case fairly, the judge sent a tweet to inform her. He also asked her to return home. In this case, the court had already decided that anonymity should not be maintained to improve Olly’s chances of being found. This direct approach (Judge to Mother via Social Media) is brand new. It will be interesting to see if it is more frequently used in the future.
The public will be better able to understand the court’s role, process, and the decisions made in family cases. This is one of the strongest arguments for transparency. Elly was reassured by the judge that just because a welfare officer was appointed by the court does not mean that Olly will be placed in care. The court welfare officer assists the court in making decisions about Olly’s best interests and speaks directly to his parents in a familiar setting. This is a standard procedure. It is a standard procedure. However, it can be extremely distressing for many people to have the court involved in their families’ lives. Therefore, it is easy to misinterpret standard procedures.
This direct communication by the judge should increase understanding and awareness for both the family involved as well as all parents involved in family proceedings. Judges have also written letters to children in other cases to let them know what the decision was and that they were heard. This level of empathy and understanding is essential in family cases. Although social media may not work in all cases, it can make a significant difference in many cases. In every case, improving communication between parents and the court is a real step forward.