(Sumner J; Family Division; 19 July 2006)
The father was a gay man who on invitation supplied the mother, his sister's lesbian partner, with sperm for use in artificial insemination. After the birth, notwithstanding prior agreement, the father sought to be treated as a parent, rather than as an uncle. Conflict between the parties escalated. The mother twice removed the child from the jurisdiction, once in direct contravention of a court order, and twice made allegations, subsequently proved to be unfounded, that the father had sexually abused the child. The father expended considerable time and money on pursuing regular contact. The mother now sought leave to move to the USA. Her own elderly mother lived in the USA, and, although unemployed in the UK for some years, she had been offered employment by a US firm. The father opposed the application on the basis that the mother would use the move to sever the hard-won relationship between father and child.
This was a genuine, strongly reasoned, practical application by the mother to relocate to the USA. The effect on the mother of refusing leave would be dramatic and long lasting, and the impact of this on the mother's care of the child was one of the decisive factors. In addition, the only real prospect for an improvement to the current atmosphere of conflict and mutual mistrust was for the mother to move to the USA, reducing pressure and increasing stability. The father's contact with the child should continue and be developed. Significant conditions were attached to the grant of leave, including mirror orders, and appropriate undertakings, the parents beginning to communicate with each other, and money from the sale of the mother's English property to be held to the order of the court to provide the father with reassurances as to contact.