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House of Commons seminar calls for reform of Poel and Payne

Date:10 NOV 2010

Big BenEqual parental rights charity Families Need Fathers (FNF) held a seminar in the House of Commons yesterday to highlight the need for a review and reform of child related relocation law.

The charity is campaigning for the parental relocation principles established in Poel and Payne to be brought to an end. The premise behind these cases is that not allowing the parent to take their child to live in another country will so impact on the parent's psychological well-being that the child will be caused harm. According to FNF, in 40 years no evidence has been published that supports this premise.

Professor of Family Law at London Metropolitan University, Marilyn Freeman, was a guest speaker at the event. She said: "there is an international momentum building towards establishing a common approach to relocation disputes, but this has to be based on a scientific understanding of both the impact of relocation disputes on children and young people, as well as what is in the individual child's best interests in these circumstances. Research is urgently required to enable families and decision makers to identify both the risk and protective factors in these cases in order to determine whether relocation will be in the individual child's best interests, or whether it will be harmful for the individual child."

Ann Thomas, Managing Partner of the International Family Law Group in London said the law on child relocation has not changed for 40 years despite the fact parenting patterns are unrecognisable from those of the 1970s. 

"Unintentionally, by favouring the mother as residential parent, the law has become gender discriminatory and often too little interest is placed on the children's real interests as the parents battle over their future in court." 

She added: "It must change. The change must also embrace opportunities to resolve matters outside of court, with specialist mediators and innovative schemes such as Relocation Dispute Resolution hearings."

In the Re AR (A Child: Relocation) decision given in June, Sir Nicholas Mostyn said a review of Payne and Poel by the Supreme Court was urgently needed. The recently appointed High Court Judge and advisory editor of Jordan's International Family Law journal, criticised the judgments for "rewarding selfishness and uncontrolled emotions".

In his judgment Sir Nicholas said: "The core question of the putative relocator is always ‘how would you react if leave were refused?' The parent who stoically accepts that she would accept the decision, make the most of it, move on and work to promote contact with the other parent is far more likely to be refused leave than the parent who states that she will collapse emotionally and psychologically."

He continued: "In my view (for what it is worth) a review of the ideology of Poel/Payne by the Supreme Court is urgently needed, where the ‘emerging body of significant research in various jurisdictions' would be brought into account."

Sir Nicholas considered that the Washington Declaration on International Family Relocation was a significant new development which supplies a more balanced, neutral and non-presumptive approach to a relocation application, as is the norm in many other jurisdictions.

Families Need Fathers has sent its proposals for consideration by the Family Justice Review which will publish its interim report in April 2011.