The children, two girls and a boy, were aged 6, 4 and 3 at the date of the alleged wrongful retention. They had lived all their lives in Germany. The parents were married. On 25 November 1993 the mother took the children to the United States for a six week holiday. On 12 January 1994 she informed the father that she did not intend to return.
In mid February 1994 the father travelled to Massachusetts in an attempt to secure a reconciliation with the mother. This failed and he then sought relief through the German courts.
On 6 April 1994 the Family Court at Schwetzingen issued a declaration that the retention of the children was wrongful.