Around 1200 families each year are affected by a situation where the parent with care (normally the mother) wishes to leave the UK taking their children with them.

Often the child is too young to express his/her views let alone have those views determine whether leave is given to the mother to remove the child.

Sometimes the child objects entirely to the move but the mother is still able to remove the child, away from his/her father and extended family, school and life.

The secrecy of the family courts stops us from finding out exactly what happens to the families involved but it is clear that children generally need and want both their parents in their lives and ae much more likely to suffer long term damage if this is not possible.

I think that there should be a law that places a bar to international relocation with children of a family until such point that the child is deemed competent and wishes to go.

Until the child is competent, the presumption should be that it would be in the child's best interests to remain in the UK – where they were born and raised, where there extended family and father are, where they go to school and have a life – as the least disruptive and best option for their future wellbeing.

There should be an assumption that the child's best interests are served by regular staying contact with both parents.

This application of the precautionary principle might result in a parent wishing to relocate anyway – without the child. But if it is clear from the outset that they won't be able to easily take the children of a family with them, then perhaps they would adjust their own life choices before the situation arises.

This leads to one last point, there should be a legal assumption that, where separated mothers and fathers both provide care under a shared residence and where there is no doubt that either parent could meet the child's education, physical, psychological and emotional needs, that should one parent wish to relocate to another country, then the child lives with the parent who remains in the UK.

Get rid of the Payne v Payne in the lives of thousands or children who are threatened with leave to remove and forcibly removed from the UK and narrow the judicial discretion that allows 95% of mothers who apply to remove UK-born children from the country.

Why is this idea important?

Becuase it is important to stop children being removed from the UK by one parent as this cannot be in the child's best interests. It often means a major life disruption and an end to their relationship with fathers who cannot afford to pay the international travel costs or who are excluded by hostile mothers and mothers who alienate children against their fathers.

So many children lose touch with their fathers – fathers who can care just as well for their children as their mothers.

If you start by assuming its best for them to stay in the UK until they are old enough to decide whether they want to go for themselves, this would not happen.


One Reply to “Apply the precautionary principle to leave to remove cases”

  1. An open letter from the litigant-in-person father in Re D (Children)
    [2010] EWCA Civ 50

    In the “postscript” of Re W (Children) [2011] EWCA Civ 345, Sir
    Nicholas Wall, President for the Division of the Family, made
    reference to my case, Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50, as follows:

    128. I fear that too much weight may have been given to some words of
    mine spoken in a judgment which I gave in an application to this court
    for permission to appeal in a relocation case. Whilst I do not resile
    from most of what I have said, I am of the clear view that undue
    prominence has been accorded to Re D, in which I refused a litigant in
    person permission to appeal against a relocation order, and in which I
    went out of my way to explain in detail to him why, in my judgment,
    his application had to be refused.. During the course of my judgment,
    I said: – “There has been considerable criticism of Payne v Payne in
    certain quarters, and there is a perfectly respectable argument for
    the proposition that it places too great an emphasis on the wishes and
    feelings of the relocating parent, and ignores or relegates the harm
    done of children by a permanent breach of the relationship which
    children have with the left behind parent.”

    May I respectfully remind Sir Nicholas of paragraph 2 of his judgment in Re D:

    2. I heard oral argument from the applicant in person (assisted by his
    McKenzie friend) on 20 January 2010. The applicant read to me a
    detailed submission which he had prepared, and produced a substantial
    bundle of documents which, in the time available to me, I had not had
    the opportunity to read. I therefore decided that the fairest way of
    dealing with the application was to reserve judgment, both in order to
    reflect carefully on the case and to give myself time to read all the
    material which the applicant had provided. This I have now done.

    Sir Nicholas eventually pronounced judgment in Re D on 9 February
    2010. He gave himself three weeks in order to “reflect carefully” on
    the arguments, and to read the extensive and detailed body of
    scientific child-welfare evidence and research which I had exhibited
    at my final hearing in September 2009 (most of which subsequently
    appeared in The Custody Minefield’s Relocation Reports). Re D was not
    an immediate, ‘ex tempore’ judgment. Plainly, these were not merely
    “some words of mine spoken in a judgment”, as Sir Nicholas now puts
    it. They were carefully considered words, and Sir Nicholas
    specifically released Re D into the public domain in order that the
    legal profession could take due note of his proclamations.

    Sir Nicholas went on to give a public interview in August 2010, in
    which the following question was posited:

    “In light of a) your comments in Re D, b) the Washington Declaration
    c) the new research from Dr Marilyn Freeman and Professor Parkinson
    and now d) the comments of Mostyn J in Re AR, where are we now on
    international child relocation? Is it still a question of finding a
    rich or tenacious (or both) litigant to push the right case to the
    Supreme Court before any effective review of Payne v Payne can take

    Sir Nicholas answered as follows:

    “As I said recently in Re D [2010] EWCA Civ 50 (which I am delighted
    to see that you have all read) there is a perfectly respectable
    argument for the proposition that
    Payne v Payne places too great an emphasis on the wishes and feelings
    of the relocating parent, and ignores or relegates the harm done to
    children by a permanent breach of the relationship which children have
    with the left behind parent. However, all relocation cases are (1)
    very difficult; and (2) highly fact specific. Re D was plainly not the
    case upon which to base a re-appraisal of Payne. Furthermore, as I
    also made clear in Re D, we operate a doctrine of precedent and it
    will be either for the government to change the law or for the Supreme
    Court to reconsider the issue in a suitable case. I do not think that
    a litigant would necessarily have to be either rich or tenacious to
    get to the Supreme Court…”

    In August 2010, therefore, Sir Nicholas was “delighted” with the
    attention, weight and prominence being accorded to his pronouncements
    in Re D.

    However, a mere eight months later, he now says that “too much weight”
    and “undue prominence” have been accorded.

    What is his explanation for this obvious change in opinion? Is Sir
    Nicholas attempting to down-play the significance of his criticism of
    Payne v Payne in Re D and, if so, why?

    Subsequent paragraphs in Re D read as follows:

    34. As I say, this is a perfectly respectable argument, and would, I
    have no doubt, in the right case constitute a “compelling reason” for
    an appeal to be heard…

    35. In my judgment, this case is not the right case for a challenge to
    Payne v Payne. In the first place, on the facts, the respondent makes
    a powerful case for relocation. Secondly, there is currently no
    legislation requiring a different approach in place, with the
    consequence that were this case to go the Supreme Court it is probable
    that – were the Supreme Court to take the view that insufficient
    consideration had been given to the harm likely to be suffered by the
    children by relocation and alteration of their current way of life –
    the Supreme Court would order a re-trial, rather than saying that the
    judge, in the exercise of her discretion, was plainly wrong. In my
    judgment, it is contrary to the interests of the children to impose a
    fourth hearing on this family.

    It is therefore very plain that – in February of last year, at least –
    Sir Nicholas was firmly of the mind – and had “no doubt” – that there
    was a “compelling reason” for a review of Payne to be heard by the
    Supreme Court. The only obstacle appeared to be the need for him to
    find what he referred to as the “right case”. The plain conclusion to
    be drawn from Re D is that, if Wall had been presented with a suitable
    case, he would indeed have given the necessary permission for it to
    progress to the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeal is the only route
    to the Supreme Court, as Sir Nicholas himself made very clear in Re D.
    To date, no such permission has been given to any Relocation case.

    Sir Nicholas has never given any indication as to what he would
    consider to be a ‘suitable’ case, although it is fair to surmise that
    the factor of delay is pivotal. Indeed, this was a major reason given
    by Sir Nicholas for refusing to grant permission to appeal in Re D
    (see Paragraph 35 above).

    In addition, quoting Sir Nicholas in Re W:

    11. … in cases dealing with the custody of children, the desirability
    of putting an end to litigation, which applies to all classes of case,
    is particularly strong because the longer legal proceedings last, the
    more are the children, whose welfare is at stake, likely to be
    disturbed by the uncertainty.

    However, significant delay is, of course, an inevitable consequence
    for any case to progress to the Supreme Court (to say nothing of the
    associated Dickensian costs, which are beyond the means of all but the
    wealthiest of litigants). On the ground of delay alone, therefore, it
    seems highly improbable that the Court of Appeal would permit any
    Relocation case to progress to that higher court. The deleterious
    consequences for hundreds of children as a result of this ludicrous
    situation ought to be obvious to everyone.

    The afore-mentioned conclusion regarding Re D is re-iterated by Lord
    McNally, (Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice) in his letter
    to me (via my MP, Alistair Burt), dated 22 December 2010. I quote:

    “The President of the Family Division has indeed signalled that if a
    suitable… case were to be appealed to the Supreme Court this might
    well result in a reappraisal of the principles set out in Payne v

    In the same letter, Lord McNally refers to Sir Nicholas’s criticism of
    Payne in a second eponymous Relocation case (not to be mistaken with
    my own case) Re D (A Child) [2010] EWCA Civ 593 as follows:

    “The President acknowledged that…Payne v Payne…places too great an
    emphasis on the wishes and feelings of the relocating parent
    (Paragraph 4):

    4. “…there is a powerful body of opinion which takes the view that the
    traditional English way of dealing with [Relocation cases, as set out
    in Payne v Payne] pays too little attention to the damage caused to
    the child by the loss of the relationship which the child has with the
    left-behind parent and too much attention to the views of the
    departing parent, who invariably tells the court that she (and it is
    usually she) will be devastated if she is not allowed to go”.

    In this second judgment, Sir Nicholas describes the case against Payne
    as being “powerful”. Would Sir Nicholas now have us believe that “too
    much weight” may also be erroneously accorded to this second judgment,
    and is he fearful that “undue prominence” may also now be ascribed to

    Or is it, instead, the case that, contrary to his claim, Sir Nicholas
    is indeed now seeking to “resile” from his carefully considered
    criticism of Payne v Payne (as expressed by him in at least two of his
    judgments in 2010)? And, if so, what are the reasons for such a

    In his most recent judgment, Re W, Sir Nicholas supports the call from
    the researcher, Prof Freeman, for yet more research (see paragraph 129
    below). Remarkably, Sir Nicholas now appears to deny the very
    existence of the extensive and irrefragable scientific evidence and
    research, which had been presented to him in full in Re D. Evidence
    which he had read over the course of three weeks; evidence which he
    had described as being “compelling”; evidence which had led him to
    make his public critique of Payne v Payne in two judgments; evidence
    which now appears to be no longer of any importance to him.

    Does Sir Nicholas really need to wait for yet more research, when the
    existing research has been so “compelling” for over a year? How much
    evidence does he need?

    Interestingly, Sir Nicholas is very able and willing to make what are
    essentially psychological and sociological determinations in the
    complete absence of any scientific evidence or research. Where is the
    scientific evidence, for example, to support his assertion in Re W
    that a meaningful, wholesome and loving parent/child relationship can
    be facilitated by means of Skype?

    There appears to be a profound illogicality in Sir Nicholas’s
    treatment of scientific evidence and research.

    The beauty of Science is that if a theory is falsified by evidence it
    is immediately cast out by the scientific community. The ugliness of
    Law is that if a law is undermined, discredited and highly criticised
    (even by the President himself), it nevertheless remains fully in
    place, wreaking harm to hundreds of children.

    In the same judgment, Re W, Sir Nicholas appears to abdicate
    responsibility for his judge-made relocation law (Payne v Payne) and
    ‘passes the buck’ to Parliament. I quote:

    129. “It further occurs to me that unless and until we have the
    research identified by Professor Freeman, and unless and until
    Parliament imposes a different test to that set out in section 1(1) of
    the Children Act 1989 (paramountcy of welfare), relocation cases will
    remain fact specific, the subject of discretionary decisions, and
    governed by Payne v Payne.”

    In contrast, however, the view of the Ministry of Justice concerning
    Relocation law is clearly set out by Lord McNally in his letter to me
    of December, as follows:

    “The Children Act 1989 already provides statutory protection to
    safeguard the welfare of children in cases of Relocation…the Act
    clearly requires the court to make the welfare of the child its
    paramount consideration…”

    In other words, Lord McNally places responsibility for Relocation law
    firmly in the lap of the judiciary. Lord McNally also stated that it
    was for David Norgrove of the Family Justice Review to make
    recommendations regarding Relocation law (and he kindly confirmed to
    me that the latest Custody Minefield Report had been passed to the FJR
    panel). However, as we are all aware, Mr Norgrove declined to make any
    recommendations whatsoever concerning Relocation law in his recent
    Interim Report.

    So we have gone full circle. No one person in a position of power
    appears able or willing to act. Each passes responsibility to another.
    Meanwhile, hundreds of children continue to be removed from their
    fathers, their extended families, their schools, their friends, their
    cultural environment and their general way of life. Children are
    expected to exhibit steely resilience in the face of such tremendous
    upheaval. In contrast, adult mothers are not expected to have any such
    resilience were their applications for LTR to be refused. These
    expectations are scientifically, morally and socially groundless.

    The gravamen of the case against Payne v Payne is actually very simple
    to articulate. In determining the ‘paramount interests’ of the child,
    should the judiciary base its judgments upon readily-available,
    extensive, irrefragable, independent and corroborating contemporary
    scientific evidence and research, or, instead, upon un-scientific and
    plainly out-of-date 1970’s ‘common sense’ assumptions concerning the
    emotional fragility of the ‘weaker sex’, and the un-importance of a
    father in the development of a child? The colloquial term,
    ‘no-brainer’ springs immediately to mind!

    Furthermore, it cannot be enough for a judge simply to declare that he
    has considered the ‘paramount interests’ of a child. If so, a judge
    would be quite at liberty to order that a child be flogged prior to
    its being removed to Australia as long as he remembered to ‘tick the
    box’ and declare in his judgment that he had carefully considered the
    child’s ‘paramount interests’, in accordance with the Children Act.

    When considering a child’s paramount interests – in other words, its
    psychological, developmental and educational well-being – the
    judiciary must be made to give full weight and consideration to the
    plethora of contemporary psychological and sociological scientific
    evidence and research.

    To quote Sir Nicholas Mostyn of the High Court, Relocation law must
    “bring into full account” the “emerging body of significant research
    in various jurisdictions” (Re AR (A Child: Relocation) [2010] EWHC
    1346). Can anyone reasonably argue against Sir Nicholas Mostyn’s
    recommendation? That urgent recommendation was made in June 2010. It
    appears to have fallen on deaf ears. Any further delay in a
    reappraisal of Relocation law would be an abominable indictment, both
    of our Government and particularly of our judiciary.

    Below is a brief summary of the arguments against Payne v Payne.

    The application of the principles, suppositions and ideology of Payne
    v Payne, both by the judge of first instance and by the Court of
    Appeal (it also being bound by its own precedent):

    a) Affords too great a weight to the wishes and feelings of the
    applicant parent, notwithstanding the sincerity and ‘genuineness’ of
    his/her motives (mercy killers have sincere and genuine motives)

    b) Affords too great a weight to the well-researched plans of the
    relocating parent

    c) Relegates the harm done to the child due to a permanent breach of
    its ‘meaningful’ relationship with the left-behind parent

    d) Fails to afford sufficient weight to the child’s wishes and feelings

    e) Fails to afford appropriate credence or weight to abundant and
    irrefragable scientific research and evidence demonstrating the
    deleterious psychological, developmental and educational consequences
    a child is likely to experience in the absence of a ‘meaningful’
    relationship with both its parents

    f) Fails to give appropriate credence or weight to the scientific
    evidence demonstrating that a ‘meaningful’ and wholesome relationship
    cannot be adequately maintained on the basis of infrequent contact in
    motel rooms or via electronic media such as Skype

    g) Affords too great a weight to the un-scientific and un-proven
    supposition – pontificated upon in the case of Poel in 1970, but still
    remaining the legal bedrock of relocation law – that a parent’s
    disappointment and frustration at a refusal of his/her application
    would impact upon him/her so as to cause the child significant medium
    to long-term harm. There remains no evidence whatsoever for this
    40-year-old supposition

    h) Fails to consider that the happiness and well-being exhibited by a
    child as a direct consequence of its remaining in a meaningful
    relationship with both parents and in its familiar environment will,
    in and of itself, likely generate considerable happiness and
    contentment in the so-called ‘primary carer’ (happy child, happy

    i) Fails to consider that, if a primary carer, initially wishing to
    relocate, is then made fully aware of the scientific evidence which
    plainly demonstrates the long-term benefits to their child from its
    remaining in a meaningful relationship with both its parents, s/he
    would either withdraw the application, or would be far less
    disappointed or devastated by a refusal of the application, realising
    as s/he would that remaining in the UK would be serving the child’s
    best long-term interests (what good parent does not happily and
    proactively make numerous sacrifices for the benefit of their child?)

    j) Fails to acknowledge the benefit to a child of maintaining the
    stability and familiarity of its social, cultural and educational
    environment, particularly at a time when that child is faced with
    having to deal with the trauma of the separation of its parents

    k) Fails to take into proper account the major societal shifts in the
    organisational dynamics of modern family life which have undoubtedly
    occurred since 1970, in particular, the involvement and thus the
    importance of a father in the psychological, sociological and
    educational development of his children. In Payne, LJ Thorpe stated
    that he had no evidence to support this assertion. That evidence now

    l) Fails to consider that the medium to long-term harm to a child as a
    direct consequence of overseas removal is likely to be more
    significant than any short-term harm resulting as a consequence of the
    delay inherent in proceeding to the Supreme Court

    m) Fails to consider that a child’s human rights and ‘paramount
    interests’ cannot be best served by permitting a legally-untrained and
    emotionally-involved litigant-in-person father to formulate and
    present a legal case on its behalf. What adult (or judge!) would
    accept being legally represented in court by a layperson?

    n) Fails to appreciate that, in hearing Ancillary Relief matters
    separately and at a later date, little or no detailed consideration is
    given to the important issue of whether or not overseas contact orders
    are affordable and achievable in practice

    o) Places an unjustified emphasis upon the ‘facts’ of a case. This
    fails to appreciate that:

    i) The suppositions and ideology of Payne steer the judiciary towards
    particular ‘facts’ and away from other ‘facts’. In other words, they
    focus only on those ‘facts’ which seemed relevant when the case is
    viewed through the distorting ‘lens’ of Payne
    ii) It is usually only these particular ‘facts’ which appear with any
    prominence in judgments
    iii) The unwarranted weight and erroneous interpretation ascribed to
    these particular ‘facts’ by Payne ultimately determines the judgment.

    Relocation cases often contain numerous and detailed ‘facts’
    pertaining specifically to the appearance and demeanour of the
    applicant parent in the witness stand. The judge may well perceive
    much genuine distress and anguish in the applicant (which would be
    quite natural, given the tremendously stressful situation in which
    they find themselves).
    However, Payne then directs the judge to make the erroneous and
    unproven supposition that any such distress he observes is an accurate
    indicator of the medium to long-term harm the children would surely
    suffer, if the applicant is refused LTR.
    Judgments in relocation cases, therefore, are arrived at primarily as
    a consequence of the application of the suppositions and ideology of
    Payne, and not, as is constantly being asserted by the Court of
    Appeal, as a consequence of the ‘facts’ per se.
    Other ‘facts’ are given very little weight by Payne, and may not even
    be recorded in the judgment. For example, facts concerning the child’s
    anxieties about having to relocate overseas; its preference to remain
    in the UK and in contact with both parents, to remain at its school
    and in contact with friends; the applicant’s extensive nexus of
    supportive friends; the applicant’s general resourcefulness, work
    experience in the UK and so on. These and many other ‘facts’ are given
    relatively little weight precisely because the suppositions and
    ideology of Payne deem them to be of little consequence.
    In summary, it is the relative weight and specific interprepation
    Payne gives to various ‘facts’, rather than the ‘facts’ themselves,
    which determines relocation judgments.

    p) Completely fails to understand or appreciate that a judgment in
    favour of removal may very well be considered to be ‘powerful’ but
    ONLY if it is assessed using the 1970’s principles, directives and
    ideology of Payne.
    One might consider a judgment to imprison a black man for entering a
    ‘whites only’ establishment to be equally as ‘powerful’, if one makes
    ones assessment using the principles, directives and ideology of a
    1970’s South African Apartheid Law!
    That is precisely the error being made by our Court of Appeal.
    It believes that it is acting in the ‘paramount interests’ of the
    child, just as South African Appeal judges probably believed that they
    were acting in the best interests of South African society.

    Yours most sincerely
    Mr BD (litigant-in-person father in Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.