Family Law Hub

Child Abduction

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  • The mother applied under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985 (incorporating the Hague Convention 1980), and in the alternative under the inherent jurisdiction, for the return of her eight-year-old son to Russia. She contended that the father had wrongfully removed or retained the child in 2019. The father opposed the applications, raising issues of whether, at the relevant time, the child had been habitually resident in Russia and the mother had had rights of custody, whether the child would be at risk following a return, and whether the child objected to a return. The father's own prior applications, including for prohibited steps orders, had been stayed pending determination of the mother's applications. Cobb J found that the son had developed a sufficient degree of integration in life in Russia, while living there for ten months or so, to acquire habitual residence. The removal had indeed been in breach of the mother’s rights of custody. He did not believe that the son would be likely to suffer the “severe degree of psychological harm which the 1980 Hague Convention has in mind” (per Lord Donaldson) and the father therefore failed in his case under Article 13(b). Cobb J did not regard the son's objection to returning as being powerfully expressed or adamant. He reached the conclusion that a return to Russia was in the son's interests, where fully-informed welfare-based decisions could be made in a court to which both parents had ready access. Judgment, 27/07/2020, free
  • Both parents and the daughter were Brazilian nationals. The mother applied under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985 for a summary return order pursuant to the provisions of the 1980 Hague Convention. The child had been habitually resident in Brazil and had been wrongfully retained in England following a holiday. The father resisted the application on Article 13(b) grounds, and on the ground that the child objected to returning for the purposes of Article 13. The maternal grandparents and a maternal aunt had alleged violent conduct towards the child on the part of the mother, and this had been confirmed by the child in conversation with the the Cafcass Officer. MacDonald J was satisfied that there was a grave risk that returning the daughter to Brazil would expose her to harm or an intolerable situation for the purposes of Article 13(b). It was clear that the daughter had settled well in England and was having her physical and emotional needs met here. He declined to make a summary return order and dismissed the mother's application. He emphasised that his decision was reached upon the very unusual facts of this case, i.e. that the holiday had provided the opportunity for the child to alert her other parent and the authorities to the risks she faced in Brazil. This was not a paradigm case of wrongful retention following a holiday. Judgment, 21/07/2020, free
  • The son had travelled to the United Kingdom with the mother for a three-month stay, with the father's consent. When they did not return the father made an application under the Hague Convention 1980. The mother relied upon the defence under Article 13(b), alleging domestic violence and drug use. It was agreed that the mother had retained the son here at a time when he was habitually resident in Australia and that this retention breached the father's custody rights. Theis J did not doubt that if the mother returned to the Australia with the child she would suffer emotional distress and mental anguish, but her pre-existing depressive and anxious tendencies would be a reality of her life wherever she was and could not be solely or mainly linked to a return to Australia. The issues raised did not, in Theis J's judgment, meet the threshold in Article 13(b). She was satisfied that the protective measures agreed would be able to mitigate any harm. She would order that the son should return to Australia, on a date to be fixed once current travel restrictions were lifted. Judgment, 21/06/2020, free
  • An application under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985 and the Hague Convention 1980 for the eight-year-old daughter to be returned to Spain. The mother had brought the child to the United Kingdom without warning, and had refused to disclose their location. She asserted that there had been a history of domestic abuse. It was common ground that the removal was in breach of the father's rights of custody, and that the removal was from the child's country of habitual residence. The mother raised four defences: settlement under Article 12; grave risk of harm under Article 13(b); the child’s objections to return under Article 13; and breach of the daughter's human rights under Article 20. Mr Robert Peel QC was not convinced that the evidence demonstrated the physical stability, integration and permanence needed to establish the defence of settlement. The mother fell far short of establishing that there was a risk of harm to the child. The defence regarding the child's objections was abandoned by the end of the hearing, but would have also failed, as did the defence under Article 20. An order for the daughter's return would be made. Judgment, 19/06/2020, free
  • The father applied under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985 for a summary return order pursuant to the provisions of the 1980 Hague Convention, in respect of two children, aged seven and four. The children were born in Belgium and had always lived there until being taken by both parents to Spain for six weeks, and then to England by the mother, in the company of a new acquaintance with multiple convictions. The move to Spain, it was suggested, had been to prevent the Belgian social care authorities from undertaking safeguarding interventions. However, the Belgian authorities informed the court that they would not be taking any active steps towards the return of the children to Belgium, and that in their view the children should be with the mother. The local authority had completed a parenting assessment of the mother which concluded that she was unable to care safely for the children. The father had been accused of domestic abuse, and though in England at the time had failed to attend assessment sessions due to drug use. The children were now in foster care, and in regular contact with the mother. MacDonald J found that the exception under Article 13(b) of the 1980 Convention was made out. There was no evidence before the court to confirm who would take custody of the children upon arrival in Belgium, what arrangements would be made for their care, or how contact with their mother would be facilitated. Ordering their return to Belgium would place them in an intolerable situation for the purposes of Article 13(b). The father's application was dismissed. Judgment, 14/06/2020, 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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