9:23am Wednesday 20th June 2012
© Press Association 2014
A woman embroiled in a divorce fight is celebrating after overturning a court ban which prevented her from moving house.
The woman, who has two children, was ordered to live at a specified address nearly two years ago by a district judge overseeing divorce proceedings.
But a High Court judge lifted the restriction after ruling that the woman should be allowed to find work and support her children as she wished.
The woman compared the restriction to being under "house arrest" and complained that it limited her chances of finding work, hampered her children's relationship with relatives, and left her struggling to pay bills.
Mr Justice Charles disagreed with the "house arrest" comparison but told a High Court hearing: "It seems to me that she should have the opportunity to seek employment, and therefore to support herself and her children, as she wishes."
He heard that the restriction was part of a "prohibitive steps order" made by a district judge in 2010. The woman's estranged husband lived near the specified address and the arrangement allowed him to have regular contact with the children, the judge was told.
The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, challenged the restriction at a private hearing in the family division of the High Court in London. Mr Justice Charles gave permission for a journalist to attend the hearing and for parts of the proceedings to be reported after an application by the Press Association, which argued that coverage would be in the public interest.
The judge said the woman and her children had to remain in England or Wales - within the jurisdiction of the High Court - while legal proceedings continued. A further High Court hearing related to the divorce fight is scheduled to take place later this year.
Mr Justice Charles said he had to decide whether to continue the restriction to ease contact arrangements or allow the woman to move. He said the balance lay in allowing the woman to move. The estranged husband had argued the woman's "true agenda" in wanting to move home was to "frustrate" contact arrangements. Mr Justice Charles said the estranged husband had a right to regular contact and the woman had to comply with the provisions of a separate court order relating to access visits, regardless of where she lived.
"I'd tried to get the restriction discharged before but failed," said the woman, who was not represented by a lawyer at the High Court hearing. "I was a bit overwhelmed when it was actually lifted." She added: "It was a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I hope Mr Justice Charles' decision helps other people in similar situations."
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