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Dubai ruler denied responsibility of his children, court finds

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed has been denied responsibility of his children after a Judge finds that he has subjected his wife to “coercive and controlling behaviour”.

In his decision, the Judge, Sir Andrew Macfarlane, stated that Sheikh Mohammed “consistently displayed coercive and controlling behaviour with respect to those members of his family who he regards as behaving contrary to his will”. It was found that not only did the Sheikh’s coercive and controlling behaviour affect the Wife during the course of the parties’ marriage, but their children too.

In what is a very unusual order, the Judge has given the Wife (Princess Haya Al-Bint of Jordan) sole responsibility for making decisions about the schooling and medical care of the parties’ children who are fourteen and ten. The Judge justified his decision to “reduce the potential for continuing harm to the children”. He stated that the parties’ co-parenting relationship was “entirely bankrupt”, as a result of this abuse.

What is “coercive and controlling behaviour”

In September 2012, the Government published guidance to assist criminal prosecutors, and the judiciary generally, to better understand coercive and controlling behaviour as a form of domestic abuse.

The Government definition refers to coercive and controlling behaviour as:

  • Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim
  • Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour

The Government’s recognition of coercive and controlling behaviour as a legitimate form of domestic abuse has seen an increase in findings being made by the judiciary. In the notable case, F v M [2021] EWFC 4, reported last year, Mr Justice Hayden made extensive findings of coercive and controlling behaviour and underlined the need for the court to assess a pattern or series of acts cumulatively.

Can a finding of coercive and controlling behaviour have implications on matters concerning my child arrangements?

In the children proceedings, Sir Andrew Macfarlane found that the domestic abuse suffered by the Wife in this case was “conducted [by the husband] on a scale which is entirely outside the ordinary circumstances of cases heard in the family court” in England and Wales.

During the separate financial remedy proceedings in this case, the court found that Sheikh Mohammed further exhibited coercive and controlling behaviour by hacking the phones of the Wife and members of her legal and security teams.

Although financial remedy and children proceedings are dealt with separately by the court, as is the evidence presented in each case, if the evidence of domestic abuse is deemed to be so severe (as in this case) that it is necessary to consider the impact on the children of the family, the court may take this into consideration when making decisions relating to children.

If the issues discussed in this blog affect you, please do contact us to discuss how we might assist.

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