Careers often span the globe and that can create particular difficulties when it comes to deciding where, and with whom, children should live. In one case, a little boy who was living with his mother in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said that he wished he had a teleporter so that he could materialise in England every day to see his father.
The boy’s father had consented to his former partner and their son moving to the UAE for a year so that she could pursue a career opportunity. However, he felt cheated after she expressed the wish to stay there with the boy, aged eight, for three more years. He launched proceedings to enforce his son’s return to England.
The father viewed the expatriate lifestyle in the UAE as artificial and was critical of the region’s human rights record. He said that, when he broached the subject with his son, his immediate and vehement response was that he did not like living in the UAE. However, the mother said that she could offer the boy a better quality of life in the Middle East and that he was happy there and doing well at school.
In ruling on the dispute, a family judge noted that both parents were motivated by the best of intentions and genuinely had the boy’s welfare at heart. However, in granting permission for the mother to remain in the UAE with her son for a further three years, he was satisfied that that was in his best interests.
Whilst acknowledging the close bond between father and son, the judge noted that an enforced and unplanned return to the UK would be significantly disruptive for the youngster. It would also result in the mother’s career hopes being crushed. She had never prevented contact between her son and his father, who had flown out to the UAE three times to see him.
In order to ensure that the relationship between father and son was maintained, the judge made a child arrangements order, whereby the boy will spend part of each school holiday in England with his father. The mother also promised that she would not move with the boy to any other country without the father’s written consent.