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Clare
Clare, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 34272
Experience:  I have been a solicitor in High Street Practice since 1985 with a wide general experience.
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URGENT - Child Visit case

Customer Question

Request for a 9 year old child to be able to visit during her holidays her mother who lives in Florida instead of having her mother to keep traveling to London with corresponding high hotel, food etc costs and huge exchange rate losses versus the US dollar. Family court judge has ruled in London today May 20 that this is not authorized due to a concern that the father who lives in London has that the child will not be returned back to London at the end of corresponding holidays in Florida. The problem is that the mother's solicitors and the barrister involved (the father represented himself) have done an awful job by not using at all a pile of evidence given by the mother, not using most of the statements in favor of the mother and even refusing to bring as witnesses the mother's husband (myself) and daughter. We are therefore heavily considering filing an immediate appeal with a new barrister who is way more agressive and firing the current solicitors and barrister who have failed due to their total disregard for the evidence available to them. Please urgently advise if you can help. My wife and daughter are in London for another week.

Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Thank you for your question.
My name is Clare
I will do my best to help you but I need some further information first.
Which court was it in and did the Barrister ask for permission to appeal?
What extra evidence did you think that you could give that your wife could not?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Family Court in London, Judge Williams, case # ***** Hoinville v Walsh. We have not talked to the barrister about an appeal yet as not happy with his performance and the one of the lawyers at all.

I (husband of the mother) wanted to be a witness after the issuance of my 9 page statement but the lawyer preferred not….and the judge complained when issuing the verdict that she did not hear from me!

Same for my stepdaughter. Being objective, the walsh side has put together a line of fabricated lies about my wife and I and made it credible whereas my wife's lawyer decided to provide to the judge almost none of our evidence as they "did not want to look aggressive" to the judge…and the judge indicated that she believes walsh's evidence; not much ours!

The judge indicated that she feels walsh (the father) has a genuine reason to be concerned the child would not be returned after a contact in Florida and that the safeguards in place are not sufficient (lodging of the child passport with a law firm in Miami from arrival at the airport to departure at the airport). We can make this lodging more secure but the question is: even if secured, is lodging the passport of the child enough?

Please advise as we also do not want to start a process of an appeal if the chance of a positive outcome are almost none. We will advise the barrister in London in the coming hours. Thank you.

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
My apologies for the delay.
What extra evidence do you think you and your step daughter can give that the mother could not?
Is there any background that gives credence to the father's concerns?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

The father provided two statements from my wife's aunts in which they both denigrate my wife to an extent rarely seen before: bad mother, "grooming her daughter for prostitution", will not return the child at the end of a contact in Florida etc. Awful. Both aunts have had a very "unethical" life, always in need of money and extremely close to the father (one even romantically). We had all the history regarding these two women showing the type of person they are supported by statements of my wife's sister and mother…but the lawyer/barrister decided to not use them which would have shown these statements are not to be considered seriously.

Same regarding the father regarding his character (off shore/tax evasion business, discrepancies in the mountain of fabricated accusations he made against my wife etc). My 17 yo stepdaughter wanted to testify about him…but the same way the lawyer/barrister did not use any of our information about him, they did not even bring my stepdaughter to the stand which would have also shown the kind of untruthful individual he is and therefore his accusations and statements.

Even though I have never met this man and have never communicated with him, he has accused me in court of being a "womanizer" and dangerous to my stepdaughter when she is at home with me! … in other words making our home in Florida look like a dangerous environment for a 9 yo. I am an ex airline airline pilot owning a small aviation agency company for the past 19 years with many FAA and TSA checks completed even today and come across as a very reliable truthful individual…but the lawyer/barrister decided to not have me on the witness stand either!

The judge indicated she believes the father has a "genuine concern the child would not be returned". Besides the mountain of false statements and fabricated unverifiable accusations the father has put together (and to which we were not given the chance to address by our lawyer due to their ultra soft approach), there is nothing else but the judge fell for what she heard (and which was not contradicted hard enough at all by our barrister).

The safeguards the judge finds are not sufficient (when our lawyer told us they were) which are now filing the UK order in the state of Florida (there is mutual recognition for family orders between both countries) and having the child passport lodged with a law firm during her stay can be made stronger: we could place $5,000 in an escrow account which is to be made available to the father should the child not be returned, we could have my wife bring the child to a nearby law firm once a week to "report presence" etc.

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
The reason why none of that was used as it would not have impressed the court - and in fact it would have damaged your wife's case even further.
The only issue that was relevant was whether or not the chid would be returned at the end of contact.
It is the evidence that relates to that issue that was crucial - which is why I am not sure why you did not give evidence unless (and please accept my apologies for being blunt) there was a fear that you would not be controlled on cross examination and woudl make matters worse.
Of the reassurances offered I have to be frank and say that two out of the three options were pointless.
The Passport being held and the £5,000 in escrow accomplish nothing
What I do not understand is the fact that the Court was not reassured by the filing of the Order in Florida.
In terms of further evidence THAT is the area where more work needs to be done
Without reviewing the evidence more fully it is hard to comment further.
It would not have helped to aggressively attack her ex - that would simply have enforced the idea that the child might be retained "for her safety" - but I would agree that no subtlety was used.
My gut feeling would be to appeal - but not using the arguments you mention - focus instead on that issue of how you can prove the child will return.
Please ask if you need further details
Clare
Clare and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you for your email.

1- Please confirm you are based in London, are familiar with the process of a family court appeal and indicate your hourly rate ( frequent travelling to London and high legal fees have left us in a tight financial situation).

2- Which other safeguards do you have in mind which would translate in reassuring the court? We are open to any process or idea as we have absolutely no intent of keeping the child at the end of a contact in Florida.

Urgency: HIGH

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
I am in fact based outside London - but have dealt with such cases for more than 30 years.
However the site rules mean that I can only offer you information and support!
As for proposals.
What did the father use as his excuses for saying the chid would not be retuned?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi,

The father used:

1- Statement from my wife's aunt claiming that during her visit for two days accompanying her daughter to our home in Florida that my wife would have told her that if the child is allowed to come on holidays here, she would not be returned at the end of the contact.

Fact: this aunt grossly stole money from my wife a few years ago (wire transfer from my wife to her aunt's account in Florida for my wife to recover her funds upon arrival but the aunt kept all of it) and has absolutely no contact/relationship with my wife. My wife's mother who was present during these two days was ready to issue a statement indicating my wife never made such a statement; quite the opposite but the lawyer elected to not use it at all.

2- Statement from my wife's other aunt who stated that my wife is a bad mother who is "grooming her daughter for prostitution"!!!

Fact: my wife has had no contact with this other aunt for more than 10 years (since it was discovered she was having an affair with the father of the child who was still with my wife at that time), she lives in London and still has a very cozy relationship with the father and while my wife's sister was under her care at the age of 8, she experienced sexual abuse and alcoholism. My wife's sister issued a statement confirming all this but again, the lawyer decided to use none of it.

Using both my wife's mother and sister statements would have seriously damaged the credibility of these aunts fabricated statements. Not to say that both aunts and the father met in London a few weeks before court which led to these statements (with one aunt living in Florida and with ongoing financial hardship but amazingly still enough money to spend a week in London…). This meeting was not brought up by the barrister at all!

3- Father claiming my wife would have repeatedly told him and the child she would stay in Florida which has not been the case as well as many other statements my wife would have made but in the end it is a "he says/she says" situation. As the barrister elected to not create a negative feeling to the judge, he did not comment on this mountain of made up accusations. This led the judge to indicate the safeguards in place are not sufficient in spite of a clear description of what they were by the barrister in writing the morning before the verdict. In any case, the UK family orders are fully recognized in the USA so for the judge to not allow contacts in the USA, there is a serious issue of bad general influence on the judge from the father.

There is no interest in grossly talking negatively about the father in court but it is our strong impression that not acting up on the above items by providing evidence greatly influenced the outcome. Not to mention having me and my stepdaughter as witnesses would have greatly reassured the judge regarding the stability of our home…but the lawyer elected to bring none of us on the stand.

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Was there a CAFCASS report at all.
Now - strange question, how easy is it to hold more than one passport in the States?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi,

Yes and the CAFCASS report recommended two weeks in the USA this Summer and more in the future.

Yes, more than one passport can be lodged and yes, my wife holds two passports (one expired a few years ago) from Barbados and St Lucia.

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
So the CAFCASS report was favourable but the court went against it - excellent grounds for appeal
Did the CAFCASS officer give evidence?
What I am looking for is some offer of reassurance to make that would have some force in the US and I am hampered by my ignorance of US law.
So what could be offered that would cause real difficulty if the child was not returned - not money but something that would effect livelihood or something similar
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi,

The CAFCASS officer gave evidence in court (the father tried to show she was wrong) and she maintained her report.

Should we contact a US based family lawyer to verify if they can suggest any stronger safeguards and may I send you the transcript of the verdict as soon as it becomes available?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi,

USA family lawyers have been contacted today following your message: besides lodging the passport and enforcing in the USA the UK court order, they do not see any other safeguard which could be implemented (besides a bond but you indicated this would not have any effect)...

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
I am thinking more in terms of something that you and your wife could place on the table as collateral which would be meaningful if lost
Clare