Mother ordered to return abducted children to Lanzarote
A mother who wrongfully removed her two sons from their home after separating from their father has been ordered to return them to Lanzarote.
The two boys, referred to only as X and Y, were three years and 18 months old, respectively.
The father was Italian but had lived in Lanzarote since he was seven and was now 36. Both boys were born in Lanzarote. The parents were never married.
The mother, who was British, described their relationship as one in which she felt controlled and coerced, and in which she suffered more vivid forms of domestic abuse, including physical violence.
On 14 January 2021, the mother removed X from school, and flew with the boys to England; she did that without notice to the father and without his consent. The father immediately lodged a complaint with the police in Lanzarote, alleging abduction.
The mother issued proceedings in Spain for sole custody and guardianship of the two children, and financial maintenance. Within those proceedings, the mother sought leave to relocate the children to England, offering contact with the father.
There was to be a hearing to be arranged in the court in Spain.
They were currently staying with the mother's father in England. If there had been a wrongful removal of the two boys from Lanzarote to England, the court would be obliged to order the return of the children under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 unless specified exceptions applied.
The mother sought to demonstrate that there was a "grave" risk that the return of the boys to Lanzarote would expose them to "physical or psychological harm or otherwise place them in an intolerable situation".
The High Court ruled against her. It held that there had been a wrongful removal of the two boys from Lanzarote to England. The mother had failed in her efforts to demonstrate that her case fell within the limited exceptions specified in the Convention.
Thus, the court was obliged to make a return order in respect of the children. However, it would be wrong to require the mother and children to return to Lanzarote until after the hearing within the domestic custody proceedings in the court in Spain.
The Spanish court might undertake a much more focused welfare review and reach a welfare decision by reference to the children's best interests, and it would be wrong to require the mother and children to return to Lanzarote only for the Spanish court to rule a few weeks later that it would be in the boys' best interests for them to return to England.
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Case Citations: C v B  EWHC 1369 (Fam) J Cobb
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