Family Law Hub

Child Abduction

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  • An application for the summary return to Zambia of two children of British nationality, brought to England by their South African mother. Zambia had signed the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction, but had not been accepted by the United Kingdom as a reciprocating party, and so this was instead decided under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court. Before the abduction, one child had made allegations of sexual abuse against the father, but unsupervised overnight contact had been required to continue. With this in mind, Holman J was not satisfied that returning the children to Zambia was in their best interests, not without much fuller inquiry and fact finding. The mother had stated that she would not return to Zambia, and the court could not risk the potentially disastrous outcome of the children being returned to an unprotected situation without her. The application was dismissed. Judgment, 12/02/2020, free
  • The father in child abduction proceedings had applied for directions to implement a return order. The mother had brought the children from Texas to England in 2017, and had been ordered to return them. The Court of Appeal had held that it would be intolerable to return the children to the USA without their mother, but her application for a humanitarian parole visa had been rejected by the American immigration service. Knowles J was unable to vary the Court of Appeal's order, and so did not have the jurisdiction to entertain the father's application. The parties would have to consider whether to apply to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration of its order. However, she urged them to consider a child-focused, consensual end to the litigation, before further hearings eroded whatever goodwill remained. Judgment, 03/01/2020, free
  • The father, still resident in England, had taken the daughter to Zimbabwe and placed her in a boarding school there. He now faced a criminal trial for child abduction, though he claimed that the mother had consented to the move. The daughter's strong preference was to return to England. Holman J made an order for the father to return the daughter, but once that happened all issues would be completely at large and in the discretion of the court, including whether she should return to Zimbabwe in order to resume her schooling there. Judgment, 23/12/2019, free
  • An appeal from orders for costs made against those responsible for keeping two children in the Ukraine, in breach of repeated orders of the High Court. This was described by Peter Jackson LJ as "the grossest breach of trust perpetrated by individuals who appear to consider obedience to the law to be optional and disobedience affordable". He considered that there was nothing remotely surprising about the orders made in this case, and indeed found it difficult to envisage any proper alternative. Patten LJ and Lindblom LJ agreed, and the appeals were dismissed. Judgment, 30/07/2019, free
  • The mother having removed the daughter from Australia and gone to ground in the Outer Hebrides, MacDonald J ruled that it was a blatant and premeditated act of child abduction. He found that her evidence showed a marked tendency towards hyperbole and exaggeration, and she had not succeeded in bringing the case within the exception in Art 13(b) of the Hague Convention 1980. He ordered the summary return of the child to the father. The court had previously allowed publicity of the case to assist in locating the child, and so he did not require this judgment to be published in an anonymised form. Judgment, 28/05/2019, free

Latest know-how

  • In a tweet: Successful application made under the Hague Child Abduction Convention despite a delay where mother (“M”) had been unaware of the Convention prior to her application. Case note, 08/07/2019, members only
  • Fresh guidance issued by The President, 13 March 2018, covering procedure, case management and mediation in international child abduction cases Practice note, 13/03/2018, free
  • Mr Justice Mostyn on whether he has the power to revoke a return order in proceedings under the Child Abduction & Custody Act. Case note, 08/07/2014, members only
  • Judgment by the President in child abduction case raising 2 points of general importance: 1) what powers the court has to compel third parties to secure return of an abducted child where they do not have parental responsibility or control over the child and; 2) the role, powers and proper basis for making orders concerning non-subject children in such proceedings Case note, 08/07/2014, members only
  • Judgment concerning return of a child to the US where the mother had successfully obtained a ruling in Texas that the child had been wrongfully retained in the US, the father had complied with that order and then had appeals turned down by the High Court and Court of Appeal. Father's appeal allowed. Case note, 18/02/2014, free

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