A v A and another (Children: Habitual Residence) (Reunite International Child Abduction Centre intervening) [2013] UKSC 60 [2013] 3 WLR 761

INCADAT legal file Hague parental abduction

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The proceedings related to four children, born in 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2010. The parents had entered into an arranged marriage in Pakistan in 1999 and the mother came to the United Kingdom in 2000 where the first three children were born. After the birth of the third child, the parents’ marriage ran into difficulties, and between 2006 and 2008, they lived apart. Following a domestic incident, the father was arrested, but the mother subsequently dropped charges.
On 13 October 2009, the mother took the three children to Pakistan for a 3-week vacation. She was pressurised by maternal and paternal families to reconcile with the father. She agreed to reconcile on the basis that the family would return to England.
The mother’s presence in Pakistan thereafter became involuntary. The children were entered into local schools against her wishes and the father removed her passport and the children’s passports. The mother then became pregnant. She was repeatedly beaten, threatened and abused by the husband and his family. She was not allowed out of her accommodation unaccompanied.
Following the birth of the child, the maternal grandfather commenced proceedings to secure the mother’s release. On 15 May 2011, the mother was able to visit the maternal grandfather. She then recovered her passport and on 17 May, she returned to England. On 24 May, the father issued custody proceedings in Pakistan. These were not served on the mother.
On 20 June 2011, the mother obtained an order from the Family Division of the High Court in London for the immediate return of the children. The order was made in wardship, on the basis that all the children were habitually resident in England and Wales.
The mother issued an application for an injunction to freeze the father’s assets in the jurisdiction. This was granted on 31 October 2011. She subsequently sought enforcement through sequestration proceedings. On 20 February 2012, the High Court (Parker J.) re-affirmed the order for the return of the children and advanced enforcement against the assets of the father’s family within the jurisdiction.
The father’s appeal was allowed in part, see: A v A (Children) (Habitual Residence) [2012] EWCA Civ 1396 [2013] Fam. 232 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 1192]. The Court of Appeal held by a majority that the youngest sibling was not habitually resident in England and Wales. The Court unanimously upheld the finding that the three older siblings had retained their habitual residence in England and Wales after being retained in Pakistan.
The mother was subsequently granted leave to appeal to the United Kingdom Supreme Court to challenge the ruling in respect of the youngest child.