Lord ordinary refuses to grant relocation order for Scottish-Latvian children resident in Aberdeen

Lord ordinary refuses to grant relocation order for Scottish-Latvian children resident in Aberdeen

A family judge in the Court of Session has ruled that a Latvian mother and her two children aged two and four should not relocate from Aberdeen, where the mother held permanent employment, to Glasgow so that the children could be closer to their father.

Both the pursuer, M, and the defender, A, held full parental rights and responsibilities in respect of the children. The move was opposed on the basis that the children would not be able to retain their Latvian links and any move would be disruptive to their status quo. It was not disputed by the pursuer that the children should continue to reside with the defender.

The case was heard by Lord Stuart in the Outer House of the Court of Session. Laing, advocate, appeared for the pursuer and Morgan, advocate, for the defender.

Insufficient information

The pursuer, a resident of Glasgow, and the defender, a Latvian national, entered into a relationship in 2017. They separated in 2021, shortly after which the defender wrongfully retained the children in Latvia until September 2022.

Prior to December 2021, the children were habitually resident at the family home in the Glasgow area. In September 2022 the defender moved to Aberdeen, where she had gained permanent employment in the IT sector. It was envisaged by the defender that the children would attend a Latvian school based in Aberdeen once they had completed nursery in order to maintain their Latvian links.

The pursuer expressed a desire to co-parent the children with the defender. It was noted that his present employment in Glasgow was temporary, and the current arrangements for contact involved six hours of travel every other weekend in order for the children to exercise direct contact. He averred that a move to Glasgow would allow for the children to have greater contact with their paternal grandparents, who resided in St Andrews.

It was submitted for the pursuer that the court could be satisfied that the defender finding accommodation in Glasgow was not an insurmountable barrier. The children would be able to spend more time with their paternal family in Glasgow, who could also provide support for childcare to the defender. They could attend the Latvian school in Aberdeen remotely, allowing them to maintain relations with their Latvian peers.

For the defender it was submitted that her current terms of employment allowed for her to meet her childcare responsibilities, with her immigration status meaning she could only claim Universal Credit if in employment. There was no evidence to suggest that the children’s relationship with their father would suffer if they continued to reside in Aberdeen, and insufficient information before the court about what life would be like for them if they relocated.

Own perspective

In his decision, Lord Stuart said of the pursuer’s evidence: “In what I consider to be an important passage of oral evidence, the pursuer was asked what he would do if the children remained in Aberdeen in the long run. I noted him to reply that he would have to think about moving to Aberdeen, suggesting that that might be difficult as he would have to sell his house. However, the house is not, in fact, owned by the pursuer. Rather, it appears to be held in trust having been purchased by the pursuer’s parents as discussed above. As with other aspects of his evidence, the pursuer’s position here is very much from his own perspective rather than from the perspective of the welfare of his children.”

On the opportunity to attend the Latvian school, he added: “The pursuer identified the opportunity to receive privately funded lesson in Latvian in Glasgow and suggested that the children would be able to travel from Glasgow to Aberdeen to attend the Latvian school. Such proposals by the pursuer are, in my judgement, further examples of the pursuer’s tendency to interpret matters from the perspective of his own desired outcome rather than the children’s perspective. It seems to me self-evident that the proposals suggested by the pursuer would provide a poor substitute for living and being immersed within an active community.”

Turning to the children’s situation as a whole, Lord Stuart said: “In my judgement, the children are well settled in their current circumstances in Aberdeen. They reside in appropriate accommodation. Their mother, who it is agreed should be the children’s primary carer, is in good employment in Aberdeen, with prospects of promotion and is thereby in a position to provide for the children. They attend nursery where they are doing well and they have a secure and identified path forward that they will travel with friends and others known to them.”

He concluded: “Whilst the distance between the children and the pursuer does have a negative impact on the children’s ability to have direct contact with the pursuer, I see no real impediment to the pursuer moving to be closer to his children. He is in temporary employment. The house in which he resides is not owned by him. His own parents, the children’s paternal grandparents, with whom he is keen for the children to spend time, live in St Andrews. In short, there is little, if any, benefit in requiring the children to relocate.”

Lord Stuart therefore repelled the plea for a relocation order, and put the case out by order to allow for addresses on future procedure.

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