Family ‘Abduction’ Cases

‘Abduction’ is a word that strikes fear into any parent’s heart. The Family Division of the Royal Court of Jersey recently dealt with a case of ‘abduction’, albeit that the Court recognised that what had occurred may not be an ‘abduction’ in the strict sense of the meaning of the word.

What had happened was that a child had been removed from her lawful custodian. In this case the mother was the lawful custodian of the child, who was intending to relocate with the child to a new country. The father’s mother (the grandmother) removed the child from the mother’s care and travelled with her to Jersey, where the father lived. It was alleged that the child had made contact with her grandmother and asked her to come and get her.

The mother located the child and the matter was brought before the Court. The Court made an interim order prohibiting the child being removed from Jersey and the matter was referred to the Registrar of the Family Division for an urgent determination as to whether the child should be returned to the mother.

The Registrar dealt with the matter and determined that the child should be returned to the care of the mother. The father appealed the Registrar’s decision. The Appellate Court’s decision was to allow the appeal. In its judgment (F v G [2022] JRC 206), the Court provided guidance on how the Registrar (or Courts) should deal with an ’abduction’ or ‘snatch’ case.

The Court’s guidance/observations included:

  1. That maintaining the status quo (ie in this case the child being returned to its mother, the legal custodian, and reflecting the position prior to the ‘abduction’) was a significant factor but was not determinative and should not be given undue weight.
  2. The overriding objective requires that sufficient time be given to explore the matter sufficiently in order to properly consider the welfare and interests of the child, which are paramount. It is incumbent on the Courts, if reasonably possible, to allow evidence to be heard on welfare issues and to afford any Court appointed guardian with a reasonable opportunity to assess the Child.

There is obviously a balancing exercise to be done between dealing with such cases as a matter of urgency and ensuring that justice is done, and the welfare of the child is properly taken into account. The Court is quite clear that if there are no immediate dangers, then time and care should be taken to resolve these ‘abduction’ cases.

Sinels has knowledge and experience of such matters and is able to assist and guide parties through the process.

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Steven Chiddicks

Steven Chiddicks

Counsel View Profile

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