Ukrainian mother allowed to take child back home after High Court appeal

A woman carrier two bags as two children in coats and hats walk beside her along a road. Next to them, an image of the 'Royal Courts of Justice' on a limestone brick building.
Roughly six million Ukrainians fled to other parts of Europe after Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022 – many have since returned home (Picture: Peter Lazar/ AFP)

A Ukrainian woman wanted to take her child home to their war-torn country, but the father said no.

Now the High Court has ruled she is allowed to do so, saying the child will have the ‘safety and stability’ they need there.

The family – none of whom can be named for legal reasons – had moved to London in December last year, having fled Ukraine shortly after Russia’s February 2022 invasion.

But by January, the mother had decided she wanted to return to Ukraine with her child.

This prompted the father to successfully apply in February for a court order blocking them from leaving the UK.

When the woman appealed this to the High Court last month, Mr Justice Hayden ruled that, despite ongoing conflict in the country, they should be allowed to return.

In part, this is because of the relative safety of the city in Ukraine where the mother – who Mr Justice Hayden ruled to be ‘the primary care giver’ – is from.

Mr Justice Hayden said in his judgement that the city has ‘weathered the war effectively’.

The family is also ‘very well-placed’ to protect the child should the situation ‘start to deteriorate’ due to the conflict, according to Mr Justice Hayden.

He said: ‘I have no doubt that they have the real capacity to construct sensible and pragmatic solutions if a point comes where the mother considers that (the child) would be safer outside Ukraine.

‘For the time being, (the child) needs the safety and stability of their home and their family. This is only capable of being met with their mother in (Ukraine).’

The decision to move to London was a point of dispute during proceedings.

Anita Guha KC, representing the mother, claimed there was ‘ever any collective intention or agreement’ between the couple to permanently move to London.

She said the father ‘blatantly knew’ the mother’s position.

Guha described the previous court order blocking their return to Ukraine ‘shocking and draconian’, claiming the mother would do ‘everything in her power’ to protect her child if the situation in Ukraine deteriorated.

But Jacqueline Renton, for the father, said ‘it is clear the parties agreed’ to the child’s relocation to London, claiming it was agree as early as 2020.

Giving evidence at a hearing in June, the father – who at times spoke through a Ukrainian interpreter – said he still wants his child to stay in the UK.

This, he said, is because ‘it will be better for them’ and life in Ukraine is ‘very dangerous’.

However, Mr Justice Hayden said he did not believe the mother ‘ever agreed to the plan’ to move to London, but was ‘undoubtedly prepared to negotiate around it’.

Mr Justice Hayden said that ‘even the UK, there is a strong sense of (the child’s) Ukrainian culture’, adding that he was ‘entirely satisfied’ that the child was ‘most integrated’ in their home country.

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