The parents are a British father and a Russian mother who were married and who lived and worked in Spain since 2009. The child lived with her parents in Spain from birth (in July 2013) until her mother removed her to Russia in April 2016, without the father’s knowledge or consent. The 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention entered into force between Spain and Russia on 1 March 2013. The father applied to the Russian courts for return of the child on 18 August 2016.
On 27 October 2016, the Dzerzhinsky District Court of Saint Petersburg dismissed the father’s application on the basis that return would expose the child to a grave risk of harm within the meaning of Art. 13(1)(b) because a child of the age of three needs to be cared for by her mother. The Court relied on Principle 6 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child of 20 November 1959, which states that “a child of tender years” should not be separated from her mother other than in exceptional circumstances, and on the fact that the mother did not intend to return to Spain.
The father appealed this decision, arguing that the Court had applied Art. 13(1)(b) incorrectly and in a way which was was inconsistent with the objectives of the Convention and with the case law of other Contracting States and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The father also pointed out that the Court had ignored his undertakings to provide separate accomodation and support for the mother and the child in Spain, which he argued made it possible for her to return with the child.