The current media reporting on the ongoing dispute between Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas is attracting the attention of many. A fraught, public battle is apparently the last thing Joe wanted but Sophie’s recent application “suing” Joe for wrongful retention of the children has caused just that. In this blog, I have summarised the currently reported situation, how the court of England and Wales may view such a situation and what you can do if you find yourself and your children in a similar situation.
What has happened?
Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas have recently announced their separation, having been married for over four years. They described their separation as “amicable”. Joe filed for divorce in Florida on 1 September 2023, which Sophie only found out about 4 days later through the media.
The family re-located to England earlier this year, living in rented accommodation but having recently had an offer accepted on a family home which they had planned to move into in December. Sophie’s court application sets out that the children are “fully involved and integrated” in life in England and that Sophie had never agreed to the permanent removal of the children from England.
It is understood that Sophie has recently started filming for a new drama in England and Joe is on tour with the Jonas Brothers in America. It was apparently agreed between them that the children would tour with their father and a nanny, whilst spending time with their extended family in America as Sophie was busy filming. The children then would return to England with Sophie in September.
According to various reports, the Florida court made an order “restricting both parents from relocating the children” and as a result of this, Joe is refusing to hand over their passports and allow them to travel back to England. Meanwhile Sophie claims, the children should be returned to their habitual residence in England.
What is the law in England?
In England, if parents are married at the time the children are born, both parents are automatically granted parental responsibility. This means they have equal rights, roles, duties and responsibilities as parents. Neither has more rights than the other.
When one parent wishes to take a child to another country, they must seek consent from the other parent with parental responsibility to do so. If that parent does not consent, and the other parent leaves the country with the child, this is known as wrongful removal. If both parents agree that the children can leave the country for a short period of time, such as for a holiday, but the child does not then come back, this is known as wrongful retention. Both of these situations can result in child abduction, which is a criminal offence under the Child Abduction Act 1984.
If there is a dispute over which country the children should live in permanently, an application can be made to the court to make a decision. This is known as a leave to remove application.
With regards to which parent holds the children’s passports, there is no set law on this. It is down to the agreement of the parents or a decision by the court if they are unable to agree.
How Moore Barlow can help you?
At Moore Barlow we have a specialist child abduction team who are able to assist you in the event of a child being wrongfully removed or retained. We also have trained lawyers and a family mediation team who can assist you if there is a dispute with regards to arrangements for your children generally or over a specific issue such as who holds the passports.
Joe Jonas has publicly made comments about wanting to resolve things in a “private and constructive manner”. This is absolutely possible. At Moore Barlow, issuing court proceedings are a last resort for our clients. We offer several forms of out of court dispute resolution such as collaborative law, mediation, child inclusive mediation. We also work closely with arbitrators and counsellors.
If you are stuck in a dispute with regards to your children, please do not hesitate to contact one of the team to see how we can help.