Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Polish woman wins court battle to have son remain in Northern Ireland

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A Polish woman has won a High Court battle to have her two-year-old son allowed to remain with her in Northern Ireland.

Her ex-husband was seeking an order for the boy to be returned to him amid claims he had been abducted.

But a judge ruled that by that stage both the mother and child's habitual residence was in Belfast.

Legal proceedings were issued after the pair flew back to Northern Ireland from Poland in June last year.

The boy's father brought the case under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.

Both parents are Polish nationals who met and married in Belfast in 2010 before separating later the same year.

The father returned to Poland while his pregnant wife remained in Northern Ireland, where she has lived since 2004.

The couple were briefly reunited following the birth of their son in 2011.

It was claimed that the boy's mother intended to settle back in her native country at this stage.

She disputed this, arguing that her return was only because of pressures to attempt a reconciliation.

Her habitual residence was now in Northern Ireland, she stressed.

The court heard claims she was assaulted in January 2012, only remaining in Poland for months afterwards due to fears her ex-husband would have her arrested and the child taken away if she tried to leave.

In a ruling made in April but only now published, Mr Justice Gillen rejected the application by the boy's father.

He said: "Standing back from the evidence and taking a general view rather than conducting a microscopic search, I have come to the conclusion that at the time of the alleged abduction, the defendant mother and the child were habitually resident in Northern Ireland."

The judge held that both sides realised a return to Belfast was on the cards for the mother and child.

"I have formed the general impression that she had no settled purpose in returning to Poland in September or November 2011 outside a vague notion of exploring the possibilities of reconciliation which in the event did not even get off the ground," he added.

"The habitual residence of both her and the child remained in Northern Ireland.  

"In all the circumstances therefore I consider that there is no basis for a claim by the plaintiff under the Hague Convention and I dismiss his application."

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