Courts Should Listen to Teenagers

July 9, 2014

Courts Should Listen to Teenagers

Child custody battles involving an international element are becoming increasingly frequent as the world becomes more and more a global village.

When relationships between people of different nationalities break down, it must then be determined with which parent and in which country any children should live.

In one such case, a dispute arose as to whether four children who had moved to Spain with their Spanish mother in 2012 after the breakdown of their parents' marriage should be regarded as habitually resident in Spain or the UK.

It is usual for a minor child to acquire habitual residence in the country in which the parent with whom they reside is habitually resident, but there are exceptions.

In the case in point, the couple's 12-year-old daughter objected to the Court of Appeal's decision that she and her three younger brothers were habitually resident in Spain and an appeal was made to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled that the key issue in determining habitual residence was the degree of integration of the child in the social and family environment.

For older children, especially, the Court has to look at more than the 'surface features' of the child's life. An adolescent child's own state of mind during the period of residence is also relevant, particularly where this is of short duration.

The matter was remitted for fresh consideration in the High Court.