Woman wins appeal over contact arrangements with her niece

A woman has established her legal right to have contact with her niece who lives abroad with her father.

The court heard that the girl’s mother, who was English, had met the father while visiting Corfu. She moved there to live with him and they were married. The girl was born in 2007.

The marriage failed and, in January 2008, the mother and daughter moved to England to live in a house owned by the aunt. The father remained in Corfu. The couple divorced in 2014.

They had agreed a way of ensuring that the girl developed a full and valuable relationship with her father. She and her mother went to stay with him several times each year, and in addition he spoke with her each week by Skype and on the telephone. In February 2016, the mother died suddenly from an aneurysm.

The two sides of the grieving family were unable to agree a way forward in the girl’s best interests. The father’s intention was always that she should now return to live with him and his extended family in Corfu. The aunt believed it to be in the child’s best interests for her to remain in the UK, living with her but having contact with the father.

The judge dismissed the aunt’s application for a child arrangements order in those terms, having found that the child’s best interests lay with her relocating to Corfu to live with her father. He also decided that he did not have the jurisdiction under international law to order that the aunt should be granted contact with the girl.

The parties subsequently reached an agreement whereby the girl would remain in Corfu but have contact with her aunt and maternal family.

The aunt nevertheless pursued the appeal to ensure that in the unlikely event of there ever being proceedings in the Corfu courts, those courts would understand that the judge had been in error in believing he had no power to make a contact order and that, had he not misunderstood the law in that respect, he would have made a contact order.

The Court of Appeal found in favour of the aunt. It held that the law stated clearly that the UK courts did have jurisdiction because the girl was resident in the UK at the time the issue arose. The judge had therefore been wrong in concluding that he could not make a contact order.

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