The child, a girl, was aged 2 1/2 at the date of the alleged wrongful removal. Until then she had always lived in the United States. The parents, an American father and a Swiss mother, divorced in the United States in 1995 and shared custody of their daughter.
In September 1996 the mother took the child to Switzerland. In September 1996 the judge in the canton of Zurich (Bezirksgericht) granted the mother exclusive interim custody. On 26 September the father commenced return proceedings. On 15 November the Zurich cantonal court dismissed the father’s application.
On 6 March 1997 the Zurich court of appeal (Obergericht) ordered the return of the child within 10 days of the mother being notified of the decision. The mother then issued a legal challenge before the Supreme Court (Bundesgericht).