A judge has ordered that three abducted children should be returned to their father even though they would prefer to stay with their mother in the UK.
The children, aged 13, 11 and 8, and their parents were German nationals who had lived in Germany. After the parents' separation in 2012, the children lived with the mother; the father had regular contact. The mother remarried in 2014.
In 2016, the father applied to the German courts for contact. The children were wrongfully removed from Germany by their mother in March 2018 when she secretly brought them to England and Wales.
In March 2019, the father began proceedings under the Hague Convention 1980.
The mother's case was that she had fled Germany because she was "in fear of her life" from the children’s father. She also asserted that the children would be at grave risk of harm if they returned to Germany.
The Cafcass officer concluded that all three children did not want to return to Germany, and that the 13-year-old had made it very clear that he did not want to return based on his "unhappy memories of Germany".
The judge rejected the mother's application for an adjournment on the basis that the two older children should be separately represented and found no evidence for her allegation that she or the children would be at risk of harm from the father if they returned to Germany.
He determined that even though the children's views should be considered in the exercise of his discretion, they were outweighed by other matters, and further, the children were not of an age where their views were determinative.
He found that the German authorities were in a better position to resolve factual and welfare issues and he ordered the children's return.
The Court of Appeal upheld that decision.
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Case Citations:  EWCA Civ 260, RE P (ABDUCTION: CHILD'S OBJECTIONS) (2020), CA (Civ Div) (Patten LJ, King LJ, Moylan LJ)
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