A mother who wrongfully removed her three children from their father without his consent has been ordered to return them to him in Germany.
The case involved a German couple were married in 2005 and divorced in 2012.
They had joint custody of the children, with the mother as primary carer and the father having regular contact.
Disputes over contact developed over the years. A psychologist's report prepared for the German courts found that the father was able to parent the children, there was no evidence to justify fears the mother had raised about him posing a risk to them, and although the children said they did not want to see the father, that was likely to be on the mother's instructions.
In March 2018, the mother removed the children to the UK. She said that was because she wished to separate from her husband and was in fear of her life from him.
Shortly afterwards, the German court ordered residence to be transferred to the father.
The mother said she had suffered physical and psychological abuse at the father's hands, meaning that there was a grave risk that return would expose the children to harm within the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 art.13(b).
The High Court found in favour of the father. It held that the removal of the children had been wrong because it breached the father's rights of custody.
The mother had not established a defence under the Hague Convention. The allegations against the father related to the period of their relationship. The mother had been able to manage for six years after the end of the relationship with no detrimental effect on her ability to care for the children.
The children had been able to maintain a relationship and regular contact with the father at that time; that would be improbable if they felt in danger from him.
No findings had been made against the father by the German courts and there was no independent corroboration of the allegations.
Although the children's views were to be considered, they were outweighed by the factors in favour of return. They were not of an age where their views were determinative, and those views were in part a product of the mother's antipathy towards the father.
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Case Citations:  EWHC 2593 (Fam), C v B (2019) Fam Div (Robert Peel QC)
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