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Daughter’s health prevents siblings being returned to their father

The health of a family’s eldest daughter has prevented her and her siblings being returned to their father even though that was what would normally happen under international agreements.

The parents and their three children, aged 14, seven and four, were all Hungarian. Following the marriage breakdown, the mother had unlawfully removed the children to the UK.

The UK courts ordered that they should be returned to their father in Hungary in accordance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980.

However, the eldest daughter refused to return by the due date and locked herself in the bathroom for 4 hours as a protest.

A new return date was set but the daughter still refused to go and was admitted to hospital suffering from panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. The father applied for a collection order but later withdrew the application because he felt he would be able to persuade the children to return voluntarily.

The daughter still refused to leave and a further court hearing was held. The judge decided that the change in circumstances was so significant that he set aside the return order on the eldest daughter.

He then decided that the mother's unwillingness to return to Hungary without her daughter made it intolerable for the younger children to be sent back there. He therefore set aside the return orders on the younger children.

The father submitted that the judge had failed to place sufficient weight on the earlier decisions and on the policy of the Convention.

However, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision. It said the judge had considered all the matters as he should including the serious concerns that doctors had about the health of the eldest daughter.

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