The married couple lived in the United States, where their first child, a daughter now aged nine, was born. The family moved to Australia for a period, before returning to the US. Later they returned to Australia, where their second daughter, now aged two, was born.
Later the same year, however, the couple separated. They made share care arrangements, and then agreed to move back to the United States. In March this year, the mother, a pilot, left with their youngest daughter, called ‘S’ in the judgement. The father, meanwhile, had arranged to take the oldest daughter, ‘M’, to Thailand for a holiday, before travelling them to the US. He left Australia in April.
Not long afterwards, however, he informed the mother that, rather than travelling straight on to United States from Thailand, he planned to take M to the UK, to visit his mother. M’s mother said she could not agree to this.
Nevertheless, father and daughter travelled to the UK, arriving in late May. Just over two weeks later, the father emailed to say that, rather than travelling on to the US as planned, he now planned to stay in the UK with her.
M’s mother launched an application in the English Courts for her daughter’s return, under the ‘inherent jurisdiction’ of the High Court, also launching a similar claim under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
The father opposed both applications, arguing that the M should stay in the UK with him or alternatively, that they should both go back to Australia.
At the High Court, Mr Justice Keehan cast doubt on many of the father’s claims and concluded that he had planned to renege on the plan to live in the United States before leaving Australia. M did not really object to returning to the US, but did object to the possibility of being separated from her father, he concluded.
The judge also said:
“In my judgment, it would be utterly absurd and wholly contrary to the interests of M for this court to direct that she be returned to Australia, where there are no family members, there is no family home, where the father would have, it would appear, no employment and, most importantly, the mother and S would not be there.”
“On the basis that M…has never lived in the United Kingdom before, on the basis that both parents rightly and properly at an early stage believed it was important for the two girls to live close to each other so they might have regular contact with each other and have regular contact with both parents, it is overwhelmingly, in my judgment, in M’s best interests that she is returned to the United States so that that intent on the part of the parents can be given effect.”