Leave for Family Appeal 6390/13, Plonit v Ploni

INCADAT legal file Hague parental abduction

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The mother, an Israeli citizen, and the father, a citizen and resident of Sweden, lived together in Sweden. They had two children together, D. (born in 2002; at the time of the proceedings aged 11 and a half) and A. (born in 2007, at the time of the proceedings aged 6 and a half). In 2008, the couple had separated and a court in Sweden granted the father temporary custody of the children.
In October 2012, the Swedish welfare authorities recommended that custody remain with the father and that the mother see the children under supervision. The mother did not accept the possibility that the father would be given permanent custody, and on 11 September 2012 she took the children to Israel.
In response, the father began return proceedings under the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention. There was no dispute that the removal from Sweden to Israel was wrongful, and the issue was whether any of the exceptions in the Convention existed, in particular the grave risk of harm exception in Article 13(1)(b).
The mother claimed that the father was violent towards her and her children. She claimed that he had sexually abused child A. and that all the children were in great distress, to the extent that fear of returning to Sweden caused child D. to have suicidal thoughts. The Family Matters Court in Israel ruled, on the basis of the opinion of a clinical psychologist, that the requirements of the said exception had not been established, and that the children should be returned to Sweden.
The mother appealed to the District Court which, following an expert opinion that was contradictory to that given to the Family Matters Court, allowed the appeal. This was on the basis that the grave risk exception had been established – in relation to D. because of the danger that he would harm himself and in relation to A because of the harm which would be caused by separating her from her brother.
The father appealed to the Supreme Court. Before the appeal was heard, there was a change in the factual situation. The boy, D., had made contact with his father in Sweden and told him that his mother was violent to him. The father came to Israel and D. moved to live with him until a court decided that the children should be placed in a temporary care centre in Israel pending the decision in the appeal. The boy, D., no longer objected to a return to Sweden.
The welfare authorities in Israel and Sweden both took the view that the children needed to be placed in care and receive treatment for the psychological harm caused to them from having been involved in the bitter conflict between the parents. The Swedish authorities indicated that there were appropriate facilities available in Sweden.