The parties are parents to 2 children, ages 9 and 11 at the time of the district court proceeding in Virginia. Pursuant to an Anguillan custody order, the Respondent/Mother had primary residential custody, and the Petitioner/Father had routine access, which he did not fully exercise (in part, because of the pandemic). They shared joint custody. In January 2020, the Respondent told Petitioner she was going to marry and relocate the children to Lynchburg, Virginia. At trial, the Petitioner testified that he was willing to discuss the relocation, but at no point, did he agree with it. The Respondent testified that the Petitioner consented, and, provided a September 8, 2021 WhatsApp message from the Petitioner that the court concluded was support for the children’s relocation. The court ultimately concluded that the Respondent was far more credible, and the Petitioner’s testimony often conflicted with the evidence at trial. Therefore, the court declined to return the children to Anguilla.
The court did speak with the children, and had them testify, including about the primary components of the case. For instances, the 11-year-old testified “that she told her father they were going to Virginia, and when he asked when they were going, she told him to ask her mother.” The court also elicited testimony from the two children about their potential objections to returning to Anguilla, and concluded the 11-year-old had a mature objection that “seems not to be a preference ‘for one lifestyle over another,’ but an objection ‘born of rational comparison’ between the U.S. and Anguilla.” The child testified that she “likes her new life in Virginia, particularly her family, church, school, and friends…” The child apparently also testified that “she would not want to return to Anguilla with either her mother or father” and “that she likes to visit Anguilla, though she would not want to return there permanently.”