The children, 3 girls, were 13 1 /2, 12 3/4 and 6 at the date of the alleged wrongful retention. They had lived in a number of countries including Australia and the United States. The parents were separated.
In May 1991 the mother returned to Australia with the children. On 24 July 1991 the mother obtained an order for custody in the Family Court of Australia (Dandenong). On 8 October 1992 that order was discharged by consent and an order made enabling the father to take the children out of Australia. Thereafter the father resided in the United States with the children.
In July 1993 the mother travelled to the United States for contact with the children. In August 1993 the father filed an application for custody. On 1 December 1993 the Superior Court of California awarded the father custody and the mother access.
In October 1994 the mother sought access in Australia. Agreement was reached with a precondition that the Californian order be registered in the Family Court at Brisbane. On 13 January 1995 the Californian order was registered. On 8 February 1995 the children arrived in Australia however, prior to the return date on 22 March 1995, the mother let it be known that she did not intend to send the children back.
On 8 March 1995 the father lodged an application for return of the children with the United States Central Authority. On 6 April 1995 an application was filed in the Family Court. Orders were then made providing separate representation for the children. On 7 April the father wrote to the children saying, inter alia, that he agreed to their request to stay in Australia.