The proceedings concerned a child born in the United States of America in February 2001 to American parents. The parents were not married and separated in or around December 2003. Thereafter, the child lived with the mother and had contact with the father.
In 2006, the mother married a British national and the parents brought competing applications before the Circuit Court for the 14th Judicial Circuit for Bay County, Florida. On 27 August 2007, the Court ordered that the mother be granted permission to relocate to England and Wales for a period of two years, from 1 September 2007 to 1 September 2009.
In 2009, the parents agreed to extend this period by two years to September 2011. The extension provided for a review after one year, and gave the father the right to call for an early return after one year (2010) if there was “substantial reason”.
The child remained in the United Kingdom after September 2011. The father submitted that he requested the child’s return, but this was disputed by the mother. Between Christmas 2011 and Christmas 2012, the child spent three separate vacations with the father in the United States of America.
On 1 August 2012, the father issued proceedings in the United States of America to enforce the 2007 Final Judgment of Paternity, and asked for an Order that the child be returned. The mother did not receive notice of the application until February 2013. She subsequently requested, through the parties’ respective lawyers, that the father withdraw his application. This was on the basis that the child was now habitually resident in England and Wales and that she would reside with the mother.
On 10 May 2013, the father’s attorneys advised that he did not consent to the entry of an Order granting England and Wales full jurisdiction, rather he held to the view that the State of Florida retained exclusive jurisdiction.
On 22 May 2013, the mother issued proceedings in the High Court, under the Inherent Jurisdiction of the Courts of England and Wales, seeking a residence order and an order for the father to have defined contact.
From 24 June 2013, English judges sought to facilitate judicial liaison with the assistance of the Office of International Family Justice for England and Wales. The father in his statement for the English proceedings, also requested that there be judicial liaison between the English High Court and the designated Circuit Court Judge of the 14th Judicial Circuit in and for Bay County, Florida.
Attempts to facilitate liaison, involving the American Network Judge, failed.
On 26 August 2013, without there having been any actual liaison between the competent judges, or indeed contact with the Office of International Family Justice, the Florida Court granted the father’s application to enforce the Final Judgment of Paternity, and directed the mother to return the child to Bay County, Florida by September 1st 2013. The Order further provided that England did not have jurisdiction in the matter, all the parties being citizens of the United States of America.
A further attempt to instigate judicial liaison in early September, in order to address the competing proceedings, failed.
The mother’s application returned to court on 9 September, for the issue of jurisdiction to be determined.