Belfast Telegraph

Polish Northern Ireland resident told he must pay upkeep for a son in his homeland

By Alan Erwin

A Polish national has lost a High Court battle over child maintenance orders made in his native country being enforced in Northern Ireland.

The man's legal team argued that the payment decisions cannot be applied because they were made before Poland joined the European Union.

But a judge rejected claims that the regulations have no retrospective force beyond the point at which the country obtained membership.

Lawyers for the man vowed to appeal the verdict, claiming the case will have wider implications across the EU.

Granted anonymity and referred to as TKF, the man had been ordered to pay £83.55 a month until his son finishes full-time education.

That decision was made by a Polish court five years before the country's accession to the EU in 2004. 

Divorced from his wife, TKF has lived in Northern Ireland since 2006.

He issued judicial review proceedings against the Clerk of Petty Sessions for the District of Belfast and Newtownabbey after the maintenance decisions were registered and declared enforceable in Northern Ireland in 2013.

The man claimed that he knew nothing about the 1999 Polish court proceedings, neither attending not being represented at any hearing.

His counsel claimed the enforcement decisions were unlawful because they relate to maintenance orders made when Poland was not an EU member state.

He cited case law which, it was contended, permitted no retrospective application.

However, Mr Justice McCloskey held: "The date upon which Poland acceded to the EU does not impose any temporal limitation on the operation of the maintenance regulation in that state."

Dismissing the judicial review application, the judge also rejected TKF's account of the 1999 Polish case as "wholly unimpressive".

He added: "Fundamentally, his assertion that maintenance proceedings were brought against him by his wife at that time in a secretive manner, without notice to him and unbeknown to him cannot be reconciled with the evidence relating to his marriage, family and life circumstances then prevailing."

Following the verdict the man's solicitor confirmed his intention to lodge an immediate appeal.

Conal McGarrity of PA Duffy and Company said: "The case raises issues of supreme EU law, most notably that Poland was not a member state of the European Union when the original decision was made.

"It will have important implications for all EU member states in the area of child maintenance, particularly for states who have recently joined and who intend to join the EU in the future."

Mr McGarrity also predicted: "The case could ultimately end up in the European Court of Justice."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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