Ukrainian mother can take child back to home country, High Court rules

A Ukrainian mother has won a High Court legal battle over whether she can take her child back to the war-torn country against the father’s wishes.

The family fled their home shortly before the start of the war with Russia in February 2022 and moved to London in December last year.

After the woman said she wanted to take the child back to Ukraine, the father successfully applied for a court order blocking them from leaving the UK in February.

The woman went to the High Court for the green light to return to Ukraine with the child last month, with Mr Justice Hayden ruling that they should be allowed to travel back to their home country despite the ongoing conflict.

None of the family involved can be identified for legal reasons.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Hayden said the city where the mother lives in Ukraine has “weathered the war effectively” and that the family are “very well-placed” to protect the child should the situation “start to deteriorate” due to the conflict.

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 court heard in June that, after arriving in the UK last December, by January the mother wanted to take the child back to Ukraine.

The father then applied for a court order blocking her from taking the child out of the country, which was granted.

Anita Guha KC, representing the mother, said there was “never any collective intention or agreement” between the pair to permanently move to London and that the father “blatantly knew” her position.

She said the court order blocking their return to Ukraine was “shocking and draconian” and that 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 and that the move was agreed as early as 2020.

Giving evidence at a hearing in June, the father – who at times spoke through a Ukrainian interpreter – said he still wishes his child to stay in the UK because “it will be better” for them, describing life in Ukraine as “very dangerous”.

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”.

He also ruled that the mother “is the primary carer” and that “even in 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.