Return of a child to his country of habitual residence in a case of clear child abduction

L (Grave Risk of Harm) (Child’s Objections) [2015] EWHC 3300 (Fam) (16 November 2015)

In this case, where a father seeks the return of his son to his country of habitual residence (Bulgaria), the main issues for determination under Article 13 of the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 are whether a return of the child (L) to Bulgaria would expose him to a grave risk of psychological or physical harm or otherwise place him in an intolerable situation and whether L objects to returning to Bulgaria, and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which his views should be taken into account.

The parents of L divorced in 2010 and the breakdown of this family has on any view been highly conflictual, with intractable disputes between them generating years of litigation in Bulgaria continuing at the time of the English proceedings. In the spring of 2015, the mother sought the father’s permission to remove L from Bulgaria for a holiday to Paris. The father, who at the material time had rights of custody in respect of L, gave his permission but instead of taking him to Paris, the mother brought L to England, and within the space of less than one week enrolled him in private school there. The mother’s first argument, that there would be a grave risk of physical or psychological harm for the child, if he was returned to Bulgaria, was rejected. On the other hand the court held that L is of sufficient maturity and the judge was persuaded that the child did object to returning to Bulgaria.

Nevertheless, the removal of L from the jurisdiction of Bulgaria was declared unlawful because this was a clear case of child abduction. The conclusion was that it was likely to be better for the child to return to his home country for any disputes about his future to be decided there and an order for the immediate return of L to Bulgaria was made.

The full text is available on EuroCases

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