The children, 2 boys, were born on 7 April 1999 and 17 May 2000 in Sydney, Australia. The parents were not married but had been together since 1995. After the younger child was born the family came to Portugal for a couple of months. Shortly after they returned to Australia the parents separated, but, they continued to live together and shared the care of the children.
Subsequently this arrangement changed and an Apprehended Violence Order was made against the father, but he continued to have contact with the children. On 6 April 2001 the father took the children for a period of contact. Later that evening he phoned the mother and told her she would not see the children again. He did not return the children as arranged on 9 April 2001.
On 12 April 2001 the mother applied for residence (custody) of children before the Family Court of Australia. She then issued return proceedings in Portugal.