The children, both girls, were 6 and 4 at the date of the alleged wrongful retention. They had lived in both Germany and the United States. The parents were married and had joint rights of custody.
In July 1995 mother and children travelled to Michigan to stay with the paternal grandparents. The nature of the visit was the subject of dispute. After three or four weeks the mother returned to the family home in Germany alone. She had intended that the girls would accompany her, but, she had been unable to locate their travel documents at the airport prior to departure.
In December 1995 the father, a US serviceman, petitioned for divorce in Germany.
In March 1996 the mother commenced return proceedings.
The Ingham Circuit Court ordered the return of the girls.
The father appealed.