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Nom de l'affaire

Central Authority for the Republic of South Africa, E, RC and M, A (11/39798; 2012/1096)

Référence INCADAT

HC/E/ZA 1247



Afrique du Sud


Première instance

États concernés

État requérant


État requis

Afrique du Sud



20 March 2012




Résidence habituelle - art. 3 | Droit de garde - art. 3 | Acquiescement - art. 13(1)(a) | Risque grave - art. 13(1)(b) | Intégration de l'enfant - art. 12(2) | Questions procédurales


Demande rejetée

Article(s) de la Convention visé(s)

3 13(1)(a) 13(1)(b) 12(2)

Article(s) de la Convention visé(s) par le dispositif

3 13(1)(a) 13(1)(b) 12(2)

Autres dispositions
Loi sur les enfants de 2005 (Afrique du Sud); Constitution dela République d'Afrique du Sud de 1996
Jurisprudence | Affaires invoquées


INCADAT commentaire

Objectifs et domaine d’application de la Convention

Résidence habituelle
Résidence habituelle
Déménagement ou Installation à l'étranger

Mécanisme de retour

Droit de garde
Sources du droit de garde

Exceptions au retour

Qualification du consentement
Risque grave de danger
Enlèvements par le parent ayant la responsabilité principale de l'enfant
Questions relatives à l'immigration
Intégration de l'enfant
Intégration de l'enfant

Mise en œuvre & difficultés d’application

Questions procédurales


Résumé disponible en EN


The proceedings concerned a child born in Australia in May 2007 to unmarried parents. The parents had met in 2000 in Kosovo where they were working as United Nations volunteers. Thereafter they led independent, peripatetic lives. After her birth, the child moved with the mother between Turkey, Australia and South Africa.

Mother and child lived in Turkey from June 2009 to June 2010; the parents remained in contact, but their relationship was breaking down. Mother and child then moved to Australia, where they stayed until 1 October 2010, whereupon they moved to South Africa.

The parents then negotiated as to access and maintenance. In this process, conducted by email, the father drew attention to the return remedy under the 1980 Hague Convention. The father filed an application for the return of the child on 14 March 2011 and legal proceedings were commenced in South Africa on 14 October 2011.


Application dismissed; the child was not habitually resident in Australia at the time of the removal and in any event there had been no breach of actually exercised rights of custody.


Habitual Residence - Art. 3

The Court reviewed existing case law on habitual residence and noted that with small children it was usually impossible to distinguish between the child's habitual residence and that of her custodian(s) or parent(s).

Furthermore, where the parents did not share the same intention as regards the habitual residence of their child, then regard would be paid to the habitual residence of the parent with whom the child had a home as well as the factual connections established by the child to the State demanding her return.

The Court noted that the child had been physically present during her three and a half years of life on several continents and in several countries:
- Australia for two periods of 7 weeks (after birth) and 3 1/2 months (13 June - 1 October 2010);
- Turkey for three periods of 5 1/2 months (6 July - 18 December 2007), 8 1/2 months (11 June 2008 - February 2009) and one year (15 June 2009 - 12 June 2010);
- South Africa for two periods of 6 months (18 December 2007 - 11 June 2008), and 4 1/2 months (February 2009 - 15 June 2009).

The Court noted that Turkey was the country where she had spent most time, and the only country where she had really lived with both parents. The Court found that there was nothing to suggest that she has acquired any "factual connection" to Australia or "knows something of it culturally, socially and linguistically".

The Court held that there had been only one constant in the care of the child - the mother. As the child travelled the world, her most enduring, settled, stable and known connection - i.e. her "family and social environment" had been her mother. It concluded that when she was taken to South Africa, the child was not habitually resident in Australia.

Rights of Custody - Art. 3


The Court noted that the onus was on the father to show that the removal of the child on 1 October 2010 was in breach of actually exercised rights of custody. The Court found that there was no such breach. It noted that there had never been any litigation initiated by the father; no access arrangements had been recorded by way of agreement or made the subject of any court order; no Court had ever been approached to make arrangements with regard to access and that the permission of no Court had been needed for the mother to travel throughout the world with the child.

Acquiescence - Art. 13(1)(a)

Whilst not argued, the Court also found that the father had acquiesced in the removal of the child to South Africa.

Grave Risk - Art. 13(1)(b)

The Court found that the child would face a grave risk of harm if returned to Australia. In this, reference was made to: the possible separation of mother and child, as well as the care arrangements which would be put in place for the latter; the financial difficulties the mother could face were she to go back to Australia; and the visa situation of the mother in Australia.

Settlement of the Child - Art. 12(2)

The Court noted that as more than 12 months had elapsed between the removal and the commencement of return proceedings, it could consider whether the child was now settled in her new environment. In this the Court contrasted the "rich, warm stimulating environment" in which the child found herself, with the "unknown and unexplained environment" which could await the child in Australia.

The Court ultimately concluded that the father was really looking for the child to go and live in Turkey, whilst he continued to work in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The Court found the child to be settled in her new environment.

Procedural Matters


Costs were awarded to the mother.

Authors of the summary: Peter McEleavy and Erika du Plessis (Office of the Chief Family Advocate, South Africa)

INCADAT comment

Habitual Residence

The interpretation of the central concept of habitual residence (Preamble, Art. 3, Art. 4) has proved increasingly problematic in recent years with divergent interpretations emerging in different jurisdictions. There is a lack of uniformity as to whether in determining habitual residence the emphasis should be exclusively on the child, with regard paid to the intentions of the child's care givers, or primarily on the intentions of the care givers. At least partly as a result, habitual residence may appear a very flexible connecting factor in some Contracting States yet much more rigid and reflective of long term residence in others.

Any assessment of the interpretation of habitual residence is further complicated by the fact that cases focusing on the concept may concern very different factual situations. For example habitual residence may arise for consideration following a permanent relocation, or a more tentative move, albeit one which is open-ended or potentially open-ended, or indeed the move may be for a clearly defined period of time.

General Trends:

United States Federal Appellate case law may be taken as an example of the full range of interpretations which exist with regard to habitual residence.

Child Centred Focus

The United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has advocated strongly for a child centred approach in the determination of habitual residence:

Friedrich v. Friedrich, 983 F.2d 1396, 125 ALR Fed. 703 (6th Cir. 1993) (6th Cir. 1993) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 142]

Robert v. Tesson, 507 F.3d 981 (6th Cir. 2007) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/US 935].

See also:

Villalta v. Massie, No. 4:99cv312-RH (N.D. Fla. Oct. 27, 1999) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 221].

Combined Child's Connection / Parental Intention Focus

The United States Courts of Appeals for the 3rd and 8th Circuits, have espoused a child centred approach but with reference equally paid to the parents' present shared intentions.

The key judgment is that of Feder v. Evans-Feder, 63 F.3d 217 (3d Cir. 1995) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 83].

See also:

Silverman v. Silverman, 338 F.3d 886 (8th Cir. 2003) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 530];

Karkkainen v. Kovalchuk, 445 F.3d 280 (3rd Cir. 2006) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 879].

In the latter case a distinction was drawn between the situation of very young children, where particular weight was placed on parental intention(see for example: Baxter v. Baxter, 423 F.3d 363 (3rd Cir. 2005) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 808]) and that of older children where the impact of parental intention was more limited.

Parental Intention Focus

The judgment of the Federal Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Mozes v. Mozes, 239 F.3d 1067 (9th Cir. 2001) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 301] has been highly influential in providing that there should ordinarily be a settled intention to abandon an existing habitual residence before a child can acquire a new one.

This interpretation has been endorsed and built upon in other Federal appellate decisions so that where there was not a shared intention on the part of the parents as to the purpose of the move this led to an existing habitual residence being retained, even though the child had been away from that jurisdiction for an extended period of time. See for example:

Holder v. Holder, 392 F.3d 1009 (9th Cir 2004) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 777]: United States habitual residence retained after 8 months of an intended 4 year stay in Germany;

Ruiz v. Tenorio, 392 F.3d 1247 (11th Cir. 2004) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 780]: United States habitual residence retained during 32 month stay in Mexico;

Tsarbopoulos v. Tsarbopoulos, 176 F. Supp.2d 1045 (E.D. Wash. 2001) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 482]: United States habitual residence retained during 27 month stay in Greece.

The Mozes approach has also been approved of by the Federal Court of Appeals for the 2nd and 7th Circuits:

Gitter v. Gitter, 396 F.3d 124 (2nd Cir. 2005) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 776];

Koch v. Koch, 450 F.3d 703 (2006 7th Cir.) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 878].

It should be noted that within the Mozes approach the 9th Circuit did acknowledge that given enough time and positive experience, a child's life could become so firmly embedded in the new country as to make it habitually resident there notwithstanding lingering parental intentions to the contrary.

Other Jurisdictions

There are variations of approach in other jurisdictions:

The Supreme Court of Austria has ruled that a period of residence of more than six months in a State will ordinarily be characterized as habitual residence, and even if it takes place against the will of the custodian of the child (since it concerns a factual determination of the centre of life).

8Ob121/03g, Oberster Gerichtshof [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/AT 548].

In the Province of Quebec, a child centred focus is adopted:

In Droit de la famille 3713, No 500-09-010031-003 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CA 651], the Cour d'appel de Montréal held that the determination of the habitual residence of a child was a purely factual issue to be decided in the light of the circumstances of the case with regard to the reality of the child's life, rather than that of his parents. The actual period of residence must have endured for a continuous and not insignificant period of time; the child must have a real and active link to the place, but there is no minimum period of residence which is specified.

A child centred, factual approach is also evident in German case law:

2 UF 115/02, Oberlandesgericht Karlsruhe [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/DE 944].

This has led to the Federal Constitutional Court accepting that a habitual residence may be acquired notwithstanding the child having been wrongfully removed to the new State of residence:

Bundesverfassungsgericht, 2 BvR 1206/98, 29. Oktober 1998  [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/DE 233].

The Constitutional Court upheld the finding of the Higher Regional Court that the children had acquired a habitual residence in France, notwithstanding the nature of their removal there. This was because habitual residence was a factual concept and during their nine months there, the children had become integrated into the local environment.

Alternative approaches have been adopted when determining the habitual residence of children. On occasion, strong emphasis has been placed on parental intentions. See:

Family Appeal 1026/05 Ploni v. Almonit [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/Il 865];

Family Application 042721/06 G.K. v Y.K. [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/Il 939].

However, reference has been made to a more child centred approach in other cases. See:

decision of the Supreme Court in C.A. 7206/03, Gabai v. Gabai, P.D. 51(2)241;

FamA 130/08 H v H [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/Il 922].

New Zealand
In contrast to the Mozes approach the requirement of a settled intention to abandon an existing habitual residence was specifically rejected by a majority of the New Zealand Court of Appeal. See

S.K. v. K.P. [2005] 3 NZLR 590 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/NZ 816].

A child centred, factual approach is evident in Swiss case law:

5P.367/2005/ast, Bundesgericht, II. Zivilabteilung (Tribunal Fédéral, 2ème Chambre Civile) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CH 841].

United Kingdom
The standard approach is to consider the settled intention of the child's carers in conjunction with the factual reality of the child's life.

Re J. (A Minor) (Abduction: Custody Rights) [1990] 2 AC 562, [1990] 2 All ER 961, [1990] 2 FLR 450, sub nom C. v. S. (A Minor) (Abduction) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 2]. For academic commentary on the different models of interpretation given to habitual residence. See:

R. Schuz, "Habitual Residence of Children under the Hague Child Abduction Convention: Theory and Practice", Child and Family Law Quarterly Vol 13, No. 1, 2001, p. 1;

R. Schuz, "Policy Considerations in Determining Habitual Residence of a Child and the Relevance of Context", Journal of Transnational Law and Policy Vol. 11, 2001, p. 101.


Where there is clear evidence of an intention to commence a new life in another State then the existing habitual residence will be lost and a new one acquired.

In common law jurisdictions it is accepted that acquisition may be able to occur within a short period of time, see:

DeHaan v. Gracia [2004] AJ No.94 (QL), [2004] ABQD 4, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CA 576];

United Kingdom - England & Wales
Re J. (A Minor) (Abduction: Custody Rights) [1990] 2 AC 562 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 2];

Re F. (A Minor) (Child Abduction) [1992] 1 FLR 548, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 40].

In civil law jurisdictions it has been held that a new habitual residence may be acquired immediately, see:

Bundesgericht, II. Zivilabteilung (Tribunal Fédéral, 2ème Chambre Civile) Décision du 15 novembre 2005, 5P.367/2005 /ast, [INCADAT cite : HC/E/CH 841].

Conditional Relocations 

Where parental agreement as regards relocation is conditional on a future event, should an existing habitual residence be lost immediately upon leaving that country? 

The Full Court of the Family Court of Australia answered this question in the negative and further held that loss may not even follow from the fulfilment of the condition if the parent who aspires to relocate does not clearly commit to the relocation at that time, see:

Kilah & Director-General, Department of Community Services [2008] FamCAFC 81, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 995].

However, this ruling was overturned on appeal by the High Court of Australia, which held that an existing habitual residence would be lost if the purpose had a sufficient degree of continuity to be described as settled.  There did not need to be a settled intention to take up ‘long term' residence:

L.K. v. Director-General Department of Community Services [2009] HCA 9, (2009) 253 ALR 202, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 1012].

Sources of Custody Rights

Preparation of INCADAT case law analysis in progress.

Classifying Consent

The classification of consent has given rise to difficulty. Some courts have indeed considered that the issue of consent goes to the wrongfulness of the removal or retention and should therefore be considered within Article 3, see:

In the Marriage of Regino and Regino v. The Director-General, Department of Families Services and Aboriginal and Islander Affairs Central Authority (1995) FLC 92-587 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 312];

CA Rouen, 9 mars 2006, N°05/04340, [INCADAT cite : HC/E/FR 897];

United Kingdom - England & Wales
Re O. (Abduction: Consent and Acquiescence) [1997] 1 FLR 924 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 54];

Re P.-J. (Children) [2009] EWCA Civ 588, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 1014].

Although the issue had ostensibly been settled in English case law, that consent was to be considered under Art 13(1) a), neither member of the two judge panel of the Court of Appeal appeared entirely convinced of this position. 

Reference can equally be made to examples where trial courts have not considered the Art 3 - Art 13(1) a) distinction, but where consent, in terms of initially going along with a move, has been treated as relevant to wrongfulness, see:

F.C. c. P.A., Droit de la famille - 08728, Cour supérieure de Chicoutimi, 28 mars 2008, N°150-04-004667-072, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CA 969];

U/EU970069, Bezirksgericht Zürich (Zurich District Court), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 425];

United Kingdom - Scotland
Murphy v. Murphy 1994 GWD 32-1893 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 186].

The case was not considered in terms of the Art 3 - Art 13(1) a) distinction, but given that the father initially went along with the relocation it was held that there would be neither a wrongful removal or retention.

The majority view is now though that consent should be considered in relation to Article 13(1) a), see:

Director-General, Department of Child Safety v. Stratford [2005] Fam CA 1115, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 830];

United Kingdom - England & Wales
Re C. (Abduction: Consent) [1996] 1 FLR 414, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 53];

T. v. T. (Abduction: Consent) [1999] 2 FLR 912;

Re D. (Abduction: Discretionary Return) [2000] 1 FLR 24, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 267];

Re P. (A Child) (Abduction: Acquiescence) [2004] EWCA CIV 971, [2005] Fam. 293, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 591];

B.B. v. J.B. [1998] 1 ILRM 136; sub nom B. v. B. (Child Abduction) [1998] 1 IR 299, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/IE 287];

United Kingdom - Scotland
T. v. T. 2004 S.C. 323, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 997];

For a discussion of the issues involved see Beaumont & McEleavy, The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, OUP, 1999 at p. 132 et seq.

Primary Carer Abductions

The issue of how to respond when a taking parent who is a primary carer threatens not to accompany a child back to the State of habitual residence if a return order is made, is a controversial one.

There are examples from many Contracting States where courts have taken a very strict approach so that, other than in exceptional situations, the Article 13(1)(b) exception has not been upheld where the non-return argument has been raised, see:

4Ob1523/96, Oberster Gerichtshof [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/AT 561]

M.G. v. R.F., 2002 R.J.Q. 2132 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CA 762]

N.P. v. A.B.P., 1999 R.D.F. 38 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CA 764]

In this case, a non-return order was made since the facts were exceptional. There had been a genuine threat to the mother, which had put her quite obviously and rightfully in fear for her safety if she returned to Israel. The mother was taken to Israel on false pretences, sold to the Russian Mafia and re-sold to the father who forced her into prostitution. She was locked in, beaten by the father, raped and threatened. The mother was genuinely in a state of fear and could not be expected to return to Israel. It would be wholly inappropriate to send the child back without his mother to a father who had been buying and selling women and running a prostitution business.

United Kingdom - England and Wales
C. v. C. (Minor: Abduction: Rights of Custody Abroad) [1989] 1 WLR 654 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 34]

Re C. (Abduction: Grave Risk of Psychological Harm) [1999] 1 FLR 1145 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 269]

However, in a more recent English Court of Appeal judgment, the C. v. C. approach has been refined:

Re S. (A Child) (Abduction: Grave Risk of Harm) [2002] 3 FCR 43, [2002] EWCA Civ 908 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 469]

In this case, it was ruled that a mother's refusal to return was capable of amounting to a defence because the refusal was not an act of unreasonableness, but came about as a result of an illness she was suffering from. It may be noted, however, that a return order was nevertheless still made. In this context reference may also be made to the decisions of the United Kingdom Supreme Court in Re E. (Children) (Abduction: Custody Appeal) [2011] UKSC 27, [2012] 1 A.C. 144 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 1068] and Re S. (A Child) (Abduction: Rights of Custody) [2012] UKSC 10, [2012] 2 A.C. 257 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 1147], in which it was accepted that the anxieties of a respondent mother about return, which were not based upon objective risk to her but nevertheless were of such intensity as to be likely, in the event of a return, to destabilise her parenting of the child to the point at which the child's situation would become intolerable, could in principle meet the threshold of the Article 13(1)(b) exception.

Oberlandesgericht Dresden, 10 UF 753/01, 21 January 2002 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/DE 486]

Oberlandesgericht Köln, 21 UF 70/01, 12 April 2001 [INCADAT: HC/E/DE 491]

Previously a much more liberal interpretation had been adopted:
Oberlandesgericht Stuttgart, 17 UF 260/98, 25 November 1998 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/DE 323]

5P_71/2003/min, II. Zivilabteilung, arrêt du TF du 27 mars 2003 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CH 788]

5P_65/2002/bnm, II. Zivilabteilung, arrêt du TF du 11 avril 2002 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CH 789]

5P_367/2005/ast, II. Zivilabteilung, arrêt du TF du 15 novembre 2005 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CH 841]

5A_285/2007/frs, IIe Cour de droit civil, arrêt du TF du 16 août 2007 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CH 955]

5A_479/2012, IIe Cour de droit civil, arrêt du TF du 13 juillet 2012 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CH 1179]

New Zealand
K.S. v. L.S. [2003] 3 NZLR 837 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/NZ 770]

United Kingdom - Scotland
McCarthy v. McCarthy [1994] SLT 743 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKs 26]

United States of America
Panazatou v. Pantazatos, No. FA 96071351S (Conn. Super. Ct., 1997) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USs 97]

In other Contracting States, the approach taken with regard to non-return arguments has varied:

In Australia, early Convention case law exhibited a very strict approach adopted with regard to non-return arguments, see:

Director-General Department of Families, Youth and Community Care and Hobbs, 24 September 1999, Family Court of Australia (Brisbane) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/AU 294]

Director General of the Department of Family and Community Services v. Davis (1990) FLC 92-182 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/AU 293]
In State Central Authority v. Ardito, 20 October 1997 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/AU 283], the Family Court of Australia at Melbourne did find the grave risk of harm exception to be established where the mother would not return, but in this case the mother had been denied entry into the United States of America, the child's State of habitual residence.

Following the judgment of the High Court of Australia (the highest court in the Australian judicial system) in the joint appeals DP v. Commonwealth Central Authority; J.L.M. v. Director-General, NSW Department of Community Services [2001] HCA 39, (2001) 180 ALR 402 [INCADAT Reference HC/E/AU 346, 347], greater attention has been focused on the post-return situation facing abducted children.

In the context of a primary-carer taking parent refusing to return to the child's State of habitual residence see: Director General, Department of Families v. RSP. [2003] FamCA 623 [INCADAT Reference HC/E/AU 544]. 

In French case law, a permissive approach to Article 13(1)(b) has been replaced with a much more restrictive interpretation. For examples of the initial approach, see:

Cass. Civ 1ère 12. 7. 1994, S. c. S.. See Rev. Crit. 84 (1995), p. 96 note H. Muir Watt; JCP 1996 IV 64 note Bosse-Platière, Defrénois 1995, art. 36024, note J. Massip [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/FR 103]

Cass. Civ 1ère, 22 juin 1999, No de RG 98-17902 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/FR 498]

And for examples of the stricter interpretation, see:

Cass Civ 1ère, 25 janvier 2005, No de RG 02-17411 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/FR 708]

CA Agen, 1 décembre 2011, No de RG 11/01437 [INCADAT Reference HC/E/FR 1172]

In Israeli case law there are contrasting examples of the judicial response to non-return arguments:
Civil Appeal 4391/96 Ro v. Ro [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/IL 832]

in contrast with:

Family Appeal 621/04 D.Y v. D.R [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/IL 833]

Decision of the Supreme Court, 7 October 1998, I CKN 745/98 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/PL 700]

The Supreme Court noted that it would not be in the child's best interests if she were deprived of her mother's care, were the latter to choose to remain in Poland. However, it equally affirmed that if the child were to stay in Poland it would not be in her interests to be deprived of the care of her father. For these reasons, the Court concluded that it could not be assumed that ordering the return of the child would place her in an intolerable situation.

Decision of the Supreme Court, 1 December 1999, I CKN 992/99 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/PL 701]

The Supreme Court specified that the frequently used argument of the child's potential separation from the taking parent, did not, in principle, justify the application of the exception. It held that where there were no objective obstacles to the return of a taking parent, then it could be assumed that the taking parent considered his own interest to be more important than those of the child.

The Court added that a taking parent's fear of being held criminally liable was not an objective obstacle to return, as the taking parent should have been aware of the consequences of his actions. The situation with regard to infants was however more complicated. The Court held that the special bond between mother and baby only made their separation possible in exceptional cases, and this was so even if there were no objective obstacles to the mother's return to the State of habitual residence. The Court held that where the mother of an infant refused to return, whatever the reason, then the return order should be refused on the basis of Article 13(1)(b). On the facts, return was ordered.

Solicitud conforme al Convenio de La Haya sobre los Aspectos Civiles de la Sustracción Internacional de Menores - Casación, IUE 9999-68/2010 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UY 1185]

European Court of Human Rights (ECrtHR)
There are decisions of the ECrtHR which have endorsed a strict approach with regard to the compatibility of Hague Convention exceptions and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Some of these cases have considered arguments relevant to the issue of grave risk of harm, including where an abductor has indicated an unwillingness to accompany the returning child, see:

Ilker Ensar Uyanık c. Turquie (Application No 60328/09) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 1169]

In this case, the ECrtHR upheld a challenge by the left-behind father that the refusal of the Turkish courts to return his child led to a breach of Article 8 of the ECHR. The ECrtHR stated that whilst very young age was a criterion to be taken into account to determine the child's interest in an abduction case, it could not be considered by itself a sufficient ground, in relation to the requirements of the Hague Convention, to justify dismissal of a return application.

Recourse has been had to expert evidence to assist in ascertaining the potential consequences of the child being separated from the taking parent

Maumousseau and Washington v. France (Application No 39388/05) of 6 December 2007 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 942]

Lipowsky and McCormack v. Germany (Application No 26755/10) of 18 January 2011 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 1201]

MR and LR v. Estonia (Application No 13420/12) of 15 May 2012 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 1177]

However, it must equally be noted that since the Grand Chamber ruling in Neulinger and Shuruk v. Switzerland, there are examples of a less strict approach being followed. The latter ruling had emphasised the best interests of the individual abducted child in the context of an application for return and the ascertainment of whether the domestic courts had conducted an in-depth examination of the entire family situation as well as a balanced and reasonable assessment of the respective interests of each person, see:

Neulinger and Shuruk v. Switzerland (Application No 41615/07), Grand Chamber, of 6 July 2010 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 1323]

X. v. Latvia (Application No 27853/09) of 13 December 2011 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 1146]; and Grand Chamber ruling X. v. Latvia (Application No 27853/09), Grand Chamber [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 1234]

B. v. Belgium (Application No 4320/11) of 10 July 2012 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 1171]

In this case, a majority found that the return of a child to the United States of America would lead to a breach of Article 8 of the ECHR. The decision-making process of the Belgian Appellate Court as regards Article 13(1)(b) was held not to have met the procedural requirements inherent in Article 8 of the ECHR. The two dissenting judges noted, however, that the danger referred to in Article 13 should not consist only of the separation of the child from the taking parent.

(Author: Peter McEleavy, April 2013)

Immigration Issues

Preparation of INCADAT case law analysis in progress.

Settlement of the Child

A uniform interpretation has not emerged with regard to the concept of settlement; in particular whether it should be construed literally or rather in accordance with the policy objectives of the Convention.  In jurisdictions favouring the latter approach the burden of proof on the abducting parent is clearly greater and the exception is more difficult to establish.

Jurisdictions in which a heavy burden of proof has been attached to the establishment of settlement include:

United Kingdom - England & Wales
Re N. (Minors) (Abduction) [1991] 1 FLR 413 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 106]

In this case it was held that settlement is more than mere adjustment to surroundings. It involves a physical element of relating to, being established in, a community and an environment. It also has an emotional constituent denoting security and stability.

Cannon v. Cannon [2004] EWCA CIV 1330, [2005] 1 FLR 169 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 598]

For academic criticism of Re N. see:

Collins L. et al., Dicey, Morris & Collins on the Conflict of Laws, 14th Edition, Sweet & Maxwell, London, 2006, paragraph 19-121.

However, it may be noted that a more recent development in England has been the adoption of a child-centric assessment of settlement by the House of Lords in Re M. (Children) (Abduction: Rights of Custody) [2007] UKHL 55, [2008] 1 AC 1288, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 937].  This ruling may impact on the previous case law.

However there was no apparent weakening of the standard in the non-Convention case Re F. (Children) (Abduction: Removal Outside Jurisdiction) [2008] EWCA Civ. 842, [2008] 2 F.L.R. 1649,[INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 982].

United Kingdom - Scotland
Soucie v. Soucie 1995 SC 134 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 107]

For Article 12(2) to be activated the interest of the child in not being uprooted must be so cogent that it outweighs the primary purpose of the Convention, namely the return of the child to the proper jurisdiction so that the child's future may be determined in the appropriate place.

P. v. S., 2002 FamLR 2 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 963]

A settled situation was one which could reasonably be relied upon to last as matters stood and did not contain indications that it was likely to change radically or to fall apart. There had therefore to be some projection into the future.

C. v. C. [2008] CSOH 42, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 962]

United States of America
In re Interest of Zarate, No. 96 C 50394 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 23, 1996) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USf  134]

A literal interpretation of the concept of settlement has been favoured in:

Director-General, Department of Community Services v. M. and C. and the Child Representative (1998) FLC 92-829 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 291];

China - (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)
A.C. v. P.C. [2004] HKMP 1238 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/HK 825].

The impact of the divergent interpretations is arguably most marked where very young children are concerned.

It has been held that settlement is to be considered from the perspective of a young child in:

7Ob573/90 Oberster Gerichtshof, 17/05/1990 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AT 378];

Secretary, Attorney-General's Department v. T.S. (2001) FLC 93-063 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 823];

State Central Authority v. C.R [2005] Fam CA 1050 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 824];

Family Application 000111/07 Ploni v. Almonit, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/IL 938];

R 6136; M. Le Procureur Général contre M. H. K., [INCADAT cite: HC/E/MC 510];

Präsidium des Bezirksgerichts St. Gallen (District Court of St. Gallen) (Switzerland), decision of 8 September 1998, 4 PZ 98-0217/0532N, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 431].

A child-centric approach has also been adopted in several significant appellate decisions with regard to older children, with emphasis placed on the children's views.

United Kingdom - England & Wales
Re M. (Children) (Abduction: Rights of Custody) [2007] UKHL 55, [2008] 1 AC 1288, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 937];

CA Paris 27 Octobre 2005, 05/15032, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/FR 814];

Droit de la Famille 2785, Cour d'appel de  Montréal, 5 December 1997, No 500-09-005532-973 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CA 653].

In contrast, a more objective assessment was favoured in the United States decision:

David S. v. Zamira S., 151 Misc. 2d 630, 574 N.Y.S.2d 429 (Fam. Ct. 1991) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USs 208]
The children, aged 3 and 1 1/2, had not established significant ties to their community in Brooklyn; they were not involved in school, extra-curricular, community, religious or social activities which children of an older age would be.


Preparation of INCADAT commentary in progress.