The children, a girl and a boy, were nearly 11 and 9 respectively at the date of the alleged wrongful retention. They had lived in Spain for the majority of their lives. The parents were separated. The father had provisional custody and the mother had visitation rights.
In April 1985 the mother took the children to the United States in violation of the custody order. In September 1986 the mother returned to Spain with the children pursuant to an agreement, approved by the Spanish court, that the parties would share joint legal custody albeit with the mother having actual care of the children.
On 1 August 1988, with agreement, the mother took the children to California for a one-month holiday. She did not return. On 24 August 1989 the father’s return petition was filed.