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Appeal Court rules that child be returned to father in France

Posted: 10th November 2020   In: Family Law

The Court of Appeal has ruled that a child should be returned to her father in France rather than remain with her mother in England. It said that even though she had only lived in the country for a few weeks, it had become her habitual place of residence.

The case involved a family that had been living for several years in Australia, where the child was born. 

On 2 December 2019 they moved to live in France. 

On 20 December the family travelled to England to stay with the mother's family over the Christmas holidays. The father returned to France on 27 December to commence his new job.  

On 3 January 2020, the mother told the father that she and their daughter would not be returning to France.

The father's application for the daughter’s return under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 was dismissed because the judge determined that she was habitually resident in Australia, not France, at the date of the mother's retention of her in England.

The father submitted that the daughter was habitually resident in France and there had been wrongful retention by the mother.

The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the father. It held that the daughter had a degree of integration in France. The whole family had moved there with the intention of living there. They had a rented home there and had brought all their possessions with them, including their dog.

The father had employment and was returning to an environment with which he was very familiar.

The judge had erred by focusing only on the mother's situation, whereas the circumstances of both parents were relevant. The family's continuing connections with Australia could only be described as tenuous and the judge had failed to carry out a sufficient comparative or balancing exercise of the factors connecting the daughter with France and with Australia. 

She was habitually resident in France as at 3 January 2020.

Please contact Natalie Nero or Kirsty Bowers if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.

[2020] EWCA Civ 1187
CA (Civ Div) (Moylan LJ, Baker LJ, Phillips LJ) 10/09/2020


Posted by: Kirsty Bowers
Luton Office