Irish Court of Appeal declares enforcement order issued in relation to custody invalid

The Irish Court of Appeal has declared  invalid an enforcement order issued by the High Court seeking to enforce UK orders pertaining to wardship and return in the case of a couple who lost custody of their three young children.

CE and NE are a married couple, and had been habitually resident in the UK with CE’s three children. Between June and September 2017, Hampshire County Council made several efforts to remove all three children from their parent’s custody. This included the council attaining an interim care order, which prohibited the children’s removal from the jurisdiction.

Later in September 2017, the family journeyed to Ireland to prevent the children being placed into care. They came under the observation of Tusla, the child and family agency, which found that there were no concerns surrounding the welfare of the children.

The Hampshire County Council then began proceedings to have the children made wards of court in addition to court orders requesting the return of the children to the UK. Pursuant to the Brussels II bis Regulation, the High Court made ex parte orders enforcing the orders that were issued in the UK, which saw the children returned to the jurisdiction in the company of social workers.

The parents sought to appeal the enforcement of these orders under Article 33 of the Brussels Regulation, but the High Court declared that they were out of time to do so, and that it lacked the jurisdiction to extend such a time. Appeals under this regulation must be brought within two months if the party against whom the enforcement is sought is habitually resident in a different member state.

CE and NE maintained that they did not receive the relevant documentation concerning the wardship and return order proceedings, which under Article 23 of the Brussels Regulation is a potential ground for the non-recognition of judgements with regards to parental responsibility.

The matter was referred to the Court of Appeal, which stated that the withholding of documentation from the parents amounted to a breach of the Brussels Regulation and therefore the enforcement orders issued by the High Court ‘‘drained the purported service of any validity.’’ As CE and NE were provided with an invalid service, their notice of appeal was deemed to have been served in time.

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