Re P (Discharge of Passport Order) [2020] EWHC 3009 (Fam)

 The proceedings before Cobb J [read here] concerned a 2½ year old child.

Cobb J identified a number of issues for the court to deal with. Namely, there was a dispute over jurisdiction as the parties did not agree on whether the child was habitually resident in Bulgaria or the UK.  Secondly, there was an outstanding application by the father for the discharge of a passport order obtained by the mother without notice.

As for the latter issue, Cobb J held that the passport should immediately returned to the father. The father was directed to execute all necessary documents and travel consent to ensure the mother and child were able to return. Cobb J stated that, “a passport order is a potent order, with significant implications, whose use should be tightly controlled”. As such, a passport order should only ever be made for a finite period of time, likely for a period of six months before it expires unexecuted as in this instance. Moreover, a passport order should not be made where the sole purpose is to coerce a party into a given action.

Cobb J concluded that a passport order, “even on a temporary basis…is a very significant incursion into the individual’s freedom and personal autonomy.” As such, an order of this kind should “rarely if ever be more than a very temporary measure.”