(Family Division, Bodey J, 26 July 2013)
The Polish mother and father met in the USA and relocated to England where the now 4-year-old child was born. During the relationship the mother was the child's primary carer while the father managed the family business. When the parents' relationship came to an end they initially remained living together but the mother began taking the child to Poland to visit family although the father insisted that the mother sign undertakings which on occasion were broken by returning the child late. On several occasions she also left the child in Poland under the care of her parents while she returned to England.
The mother took the child to Poland over the Christmas period then returned to England, leaving the child with the maternal grandparents. While in Poland the child was diagnosed with a life threatening condition which necessitated a hospital treatment including a blood transfusion. He made a full recovery but was not returned to England for 15 months.
The mother applied to the Polish court, without informing the father, in order to settle the issue of parental responsibility and to permit her to retain the child in Poland. The father issued Hague Convention proceedings in Poland seeking a return order. A return order was granted and the child was placed in the care of his father, seemingly because the mother claimed that she would be remaining in Poland.
When the child returned to the care of his father he allegedly made disclosures of abuse at the hands of the maternal grandfather while he was in Poland. The mother applied for a return of the child to her care and a prohibited steps order preventing his removal from the jurisdiction. A number of allegations were made by both parents including that the mother was addicted to alcohol and that the father had taken the child to excessive and unnecessary medical appointments.
The judge made specific findings on each of the allegations. It was clear on the evidence that both parties had, in different ways, failed to put the child's interests above their own. The combined totality was likely to have caused him some emotional harm and that was likely to continue, unless the parents could with a huge effort draw some kind of a line and look to the future, rather than the past. The father's attitude to the mother was concerning and he tended to look for an ulterior motive in everything which she said or did. Whilst to some extent that was understandable, it had gotten out of proportion in the way he approached things and in his attitude to the mother's relationship with the child. There was a risk of its further damaging the parental relationship, which would itself be to the continued detriment of the child.