The parents divorced in Monaco in 1989. In accordance with the divorce judgment the two children of the marriage were separated; the father was given custody of the daughter, then aged 6, in Monaco, while the mother was given custody of the son, then aged 4, in Belgium. Both parents had extensive access rights in repect of the child not in their care. This arrangement worked without problem until 1998.
On 23 July 1998 the mother issued proceedings to amend the exercise of parental authority over the children as they did not seem to being doing well under the current regime. The tribunal de la jeunesse in Brussels did not immediately rule on the application. On 26 April 1999 a Monegasque court dismissed an application from the father that the mother’s right of access in respect of their daughter be ended or suspended.
On 12 November 1999 the daughter travelled to Belgium. Once there she was immediately hospitalised because of anorexia. On 3 December the father contacted the State prosecutor in Grasse and petitioned for the return of his daughter.