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. On 6 August the supreme court (Bundesgericht) dismissed a legal challenge filed by the mother. In October two attempts at executing the return order failed and the mother seised the Zurich cantonal court in an attempt to have the return order of 6 March 1997 struck out.
On 19 December this application was dismissed. On 25 April 1998 the court of cassation of the Zurich canton rejected an application to have the return order struck out. Several challenges to the supreme court were equally rejected. In May 1998 mother and child moved to Aargau. The father sought to have the return order executed in Aargau but an application to this effect was rejected by the local cantonal court.
On 26 March 2001 the court of appeal of the Aargau canton rejected the father’s appeal finding that as the return order had been made 4 years earlier its execution could not be ordered without consideration of the best interests of the child, who was now aged 9. The court held that it did not matter that the mother’s repeated legal challenges had led to the delays.
On 13 Septembre 2001 the Swiss supreme court rejected a public law challenge by the father. On 16 October and 6 November 2000 the court of appeal for the Canton of Zurich had declared applications by the mother to revise the return order to be inadmissible. Challenges to these decisions were rejected by the cour de cassation of the Zurich Canton. The child then petitioned the Swiss supreme court for the order of 6 November to be retracted.