Family Law Hub

Child Abduction

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  • The mother had unilaterally taken the children from Rome in July 2020. The children had not seen their father since. One child was born in England, the other in Italy after the family moved there in 2011. If not for the abduction, the children would have been interviewed by Italian social services in October 2020, ahead of the father's appeal regarding child arrangements being heard in November 2020. The Appeal Court of Rome granted custody to the father, describing the abduction of the children as "seriously harmful to their balanced emotional and physical development". The father had also commenced proceedings here under the 1980 Hague Convention in September 2020. It was not disputed that the children had been habitually resident in Italy at the time of removal. Mostyn J asked himself how the Appeal Court of Rome's interim custody order should be treated when considering the discretion not to return under article 13. He judged that "unless it could be shown that the order was made on a false basis (whether by virtue of fraud, mistake or a major unexpected change of circumstances), or that it was obtained by procedurally unfair means, then the exercise of discretion should almost invariably lead to the responsive order being given effect". The mother had not demonstrated that the children faced a grave risk so as to provide a defence under article 13(b), and although the children strongly objected to being returned to their father, in Mostyn J's view they had been subjected to indoctrination and manipulation, and thus he did not place much weight on their objections. The discretion against return would not be exercised, and the children had to be returned to Italy no later than Sunday, 14 February 2021. Judgment, 25/01/2021, free
  • The father applied, under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985, incorporating the 1980 Hague Convention, for the summary return to Australia of three children aged 4, 9 and 13. The mother opposed the application on the basis that the retention had not been in breach of the father's rights of custody, that the father had acquiesced to the relocation, that there was a grave risk of a return exposing the children to harm, and that two of the children objected to returning and were old enough for their views to be taken into account. By the time of the hearing it was common ground between the parties that the children had been habitually resident in Australia, that the father shared rights of custody with the mother and that he had been exercising these rights. Mr David Rees QC, sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court, did not accept the mother's evidence that the father had given express consent to a permanent relocation. He found that the mother had made out an Article 13 exception in relation to the two older children's objections, but not with regards to grave harm. He exercised his discretion to direct the return of the children to Australia, but noted in a postscript that his order had not been carried into effect, the Australian courts having permitted, on an interim basis, the children to remain in England with the mother. Judgment, 20/12/2020, free
  • An application for the summary return of the eight-year-old son to Australia, where he had always lived until being brought without warning to England by the mother. The application was made under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985, pursuant to Articles 3 and 12 of the 1980 Hague Convention. It was agreed that the son's habitual residence in Australia and the father's exercising of rights of custody at the material time had both been made out. The task for Mr Teertha Gupta QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, was thus to decide on a summary basis whether the mother had raised a valid defence under the 1980 Hague Convention and, if so, whether he should exercise his discretion not to return the child forthwith to Australia. He found that the Article 13(b) defence had not been established; there was no evidence to support the mother's assertion that the child had suffered severe symptoms of intolerable anxiety. Mr Teertha Gupta QC expressed concern that the mother's actions might be symptoms of a deeper wish to eradicate the father from the child's life. It was in the child's overall and long-term best interests to return to Australia forthwith. The father's application was granted. Judgment, 18/12/2020, free
  • Both parents were Polish nationals. Their brief relationship ended before the child, now eight, was born. The mother brought the child to England in 2018, and they had lived here since. The father applied for a return order under the Hague Convention 1980. Issues to be determined included the date of retention, the date of habitual residence, whether the father had acquiesced to the move, whether the child was settled, whether an article 13(b) defence could be established, whether the child objected to a return, and whether the court should exercise its discretion not to order a return. Poole J found the evidence of both parents unsatisfactory and evasive, and gave more weight to the contemporaneous evidence available. The child had continued to be habitually resident in England. His visit to Poland had been temporary, and thus the Hague Convention had no application to the mother then bringing him back to England. The father's application was dismissed. If the Hague Convention had applied, the court would have exercised its discretion to not order the child's return: he clearly objected to returning to Poland, and the father had acquiesced to him remaining in England. Judgment, 08/12/2020, free
  • A third set of child abduction proceedings brought by the father pursuant to the 1980 Hague Convention in respect of the same two children, a boy aged 9 and a girl aged 6. The children had been born in England, and the family had moved to Morocco in 2016. The mother had brought the children back to England while the father served a prison sentence for adultery, a criminal offence in Morocco. The return of the children to Morocco had twice previously been ordered, but each time the mother had brought them back to England. Francis J found that the children had been habitually resident in Morocco at the time of the most recent removal to England. He found that the views of the children had been "poisoned", and thus would not make any difference to his decision, which was for the children to be returned to Morocco. The mother was ordered to pay the father's costs on the indemnity basis. The judgment was not anonymised, in the hope that publicity would prevent a fourth abduction. Judgment, 28/09/2020, 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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