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The modern phenomenon of transnational parenting came under the spotlight after a family judge ruled that a two-year-old boy would be better off relocating to Moscow with his Russian mother, rather than staying with his British father in the UK.
The parents had met whilst holidaying abroad and, following the breakdown of their short marriage, had shared care of their son. However, the mother’s immigration status in Britain was uncertain and she was desperate to return with the boy to her homeland, where she had an extensive family support network.
The father fiercely resisted the move and the judge acknowledged that his decision would not only determine the boy’s future upbringing but also shape his identity as an essentially Russian, or British, child. The father argued that he was well able to meet the boy’s needs; however, the mother stated that, if permitted to relocate, she would facilitate regular contact between the boy and his distant father.
Ruling in the mother’s favour, the court noted that the father – whilst rising with credit to the challenge of looking after the boy – was unemployed, had had a troubled past and had a criminal record for dishonesty going back to his teenage years. The mother was not someone who ‘lacked forward direction’ and could be relied upon to show her son an example of energetic self-reliance.
Although recognising that his ruling would cause the father ‘extreme disappointment and sadness’ in the short term, the judge said that releasing him from the day-to-day care of his son would give him the opportunity to ‘reassess his situation’ and, in particular, find a job. He would continue to play an important role in his son’s life, but the mother could offer the boy ‘a wider field of possibilities’ in Russia.