Sophie Turner files wrongful retention court proceedings against Joe Jonas, requesting that their children be returned to the UK.
You know what they say, a week is a long time in show business. In that short space of time the highly publicised divorce of Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas has gone from “amicable” to not so Perfectly Fine as she has today (Friday, 22 September) filed papers in the UK asserting that their children are being wrongfully retained in New York City and seeking their return to live with her in the UK.
Court documents seen by the Press allege that the Jonas Brothers singer, who filed for divorce in the US earlier this month, is refusing to hand over the children’s passports. Jonas, meanwhile, has urged Turner to “reconsider her harsh legal position and move forward in a more constructive and private manner”.
A swift change in tone has since occurred, with the pair appearing to be less amicable than originally noted in their joint public statement regarding the split.
Turner’s court documents, filed in the Southern District of New York, said the couple’s children, born in 2020 and 2022, have been wrongfully retained in New York City since 20 September 2023 from their habitual residence in England. The children are currently with her in New York, and she is now seeking for them to be able to return to live in England.
The documents said that the children, who have dual citizenship, are fully involved and integrated in daily life in England, with the older child attending school there, and both are involved in playdates and cultural activities. The papers allege that the family made England their permanent home in April, partly because of a desire to have the children educated in the country.
They moved into a rented property in May and made an offer on a permanent home in July, with a plan to move in in December, the filing said.
Because Turner began filming a new drama series in the UK in May, they decided the children would travel with Jonas and a nanny as he kicked off a tour with the Jonas Brothers in the United States in late July. The plan, according to the petition, was for the children to stay with Jonas and his extended family until Turner finished filming in mid-September. This was of course all before the divorce was announced.
Jonas then chose to file divorce papers in Florida, allegedly without Turner’s knowledge and her having to find out about it through the media. The Florida court, where the divorce was filed, restricts both parents from relocating the children and it is now this filing which Jonas relies on in his refusal to allow the children to return to the UK.
Will they be allowed to return to the UK?
Ultimately, the decision as to whether the children have been wrongfully retained and whether they can return to the UK will be based on the judge’s decision after considering all of the facts in the case. The first hurdle will be for Turner to prove that the children are indeed habitually resident in the UK. Habitual Residence refers to where someone considers their home to be, and for children various different factors can help a judge to make a decision in relation to this, such as where they go to school, where they attend dental and medical appointments, and how integrated they are in the local community. Habitual residence can change very quickly under the right circumstances.
If they are habitually resident in the UK, then the judge will require to determine whether they have been wrongfully retained and, if so, whether they should be returned to the UK. In this case the Hague Convention would apply, given that both the UK and the USA are signatories.
As already alluded to in Jonas’ statement, in cases involving celebrities or public figures it can be preferable to try and resolve disputes privately in order to avoid the circus which can often follow a celebrity split, particularly where there are children involved.
Options can include mediation or arbitration, which allow the couple to have the dispute resolved privately and away from media attention. Sensitive reputation management considerations may also require to be taken into account in order to carefully manage the public perception of everyone involved where that is important to their future ability to be successful in their chosen field. Indeed, perhaps in some cases it may be preferable for the case to be heard in public, in which case either party may want the court to be the forum to resolve the dispute.
As a result, it is often important for both parties to get quick and specialised legal advice to cover all of their bases, not just from a family law perspective, but also from the perspective of their own reputation and PR requirements.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, we have specialised family and reputation management solicitors at BTO who can help, just get in touch.
Beverley Addison, Senior Solicitor: email@example.com / 0141 221 8012