The case concerned a child born in March 2011 to a Spanish diplomat father and an American mother. The child was a citizen of Spain and the United States. The parents had been in a relationship for about eight years before marrying in 2009. The child was born in the United States and had spent time in both Indonesia and Spain, but had spent the majority of his life in Turkey where he lived and attended preschool immediately before his retention in the United States.
On 6 April 2014, the mother travelled to Kentucky with the child. In a letter he registered with the Spanish embassy, the father authorised the trip, indicating that the mother and child would return at the end of April or beginning of May 2014. After arriving in the United States, the mother informed the father that she would not be returning with the child. Both parties filed for divorce and custody in Kentucky and Spain, respectively.
The mother alleged several incidents in which the father had reportedly abused the child. These included shaking the child, force-feeding the child until he vomited, pinching and grabbing him, including by his genitals. Pliego denied all claims of abuse; he attributed some to differences in culture. Little evidence was produced to corroborate either the claims or denials: the court remarked that ?largely the allegations come down to the differing testimony of [the father] and [the mother]”.
Further domestic abuse allegations were made against the father. The mother asserted that she had been abused physically and emotionally for years and alleged three cases of rape. The father testified that he had, on one occasion, pulled the mother away from a balcony after she threatened to jump off it. Both parties had been undergoing psychological treatment at different times.