Re H. (Children) (Child Abduction: Grave Risk) [2003] EWCA Civ 355

INCADAT legal file Hague parental abduction

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The children were aged 9, 6 and 5 at the date of the alleged wrongful removal. Until then they had lived all of their lives in Belgium. None of the members of the family spoke English. The parents were married and had joint rights of custody. The mother had another child from a previous marriage who lived with the family. He was not involved in the return proceedings.
The family was known to Belgian social service agencies. There were allegations of violence by the mother against the father, and by the father against the mother. The mother left the family home on several occasions. In 1999 after an investigation by social services it was decided that the children should not be placed in care, but that the family was to be monitored.
On 31 March 2002 the mother took the children to England.
On 13 May a report was made by Belgian social services on the family. Social services had instructed a psychologist and social assistant to become involved in late 2001. The report confirmed the presence of physical abuse and noted that the family dynamics had led to effects which were detrimental for all of the children. The report set out problems in the behaviour and the attitudes of the mother rather than those of the father.
The father issued a return application on 18 July. On 30 January the return application was heard by the Family Division of the High Court. The mother accepted that the removal had been wrongful, but she sought to invoke Article 13(1)(b). Singer J. found that the threshold had been reached and he refused to order the return of the children.