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Case Name

Family Advocate, Cape Town and Another v. E.M.

INCADAT reference

HC/E/ZA 1055







First Instance

Madima A.J.

States involved

Requesting State


Requested State




28 November 2008




Acquiescence - Art. 13(1)(a) | Undertakings


Return ordered subject to undertakings

HC article(s) Considered

3 13(1)(a)

HC article(s) Relied Upon


Other provisions


Authorities | Cases referred to
Senior Family Advocate, Cape Town and Another v. Houtman 2004 (6) SA 274 (CPD); Smith v. Smith 2001 (3) SA 845 (SCA) [2001] 3 All SA 146; Police Commissioner of South Australia v. Temple (No. l) (1993) PLC 92-365; Friedrich v. Friedrich, 78 F.3d 1060 (6th Cir 1996); Re H. and Others (Minors) (Abduction: Acquiescence) [1997] 2 All ER 225 (HL); Central Authority v. H. 2008 (1) SA 49 SCA.

INCADAT comment

Exceptions to Return


Implementation & Application Issues

Measures to Facilitate the Return of Children
Safe Return / Mirror Orders
Procedural Matters


Summary available in EN


The application related to a child born in 2004 to a British father and a South African mother. The parents had married in South Africa.

The child was born in the United Kingdom and lived there with the parents until September 2007, when the mother took her to South Africa for an agreed vacation. After several weeks the mother advised the father that she intended to remain in South Africa.

One month later the maternal grandmother took the child to the UK for a two week vacation to see the father.

On 4 December the father provided the grandmother with a letter to facilitate her return to South Africa, affirming that he consented to the child going to Cape Town. Thereafter, the child remained in South Africa and in February 2008 the father issued return proceedings.


Retention wrongful and return ordered; none of the exceptions had been proved to the standard required under the Convention.


Acquiescence - Art. 13(1)(a)

The mother sought to argue that the father had either consented to the removal of the child, or by his actions, had subsequently acquiesced in her retention. In this particular reliance was placed on the letter the father provided in December 2007 to facilitate the passage of the maternal grandmother back to South Africa with the child.

Referring to foreign case law the trial judge noted that evidence of acquiescence must be clear and unqualified. Moreover reference must be made to the subjective state of mind of the wronged parent. The trial judge held that he saw nothing in the letter to indicate the father had consented to the permanent removal of the child.

He noted the explanation of the father that in allowing the child to go back to South Africa he had been hoping to salvage the marriage. The trial judge further held that a four month delay in initiating return proceedings did not amount to acquiescence.


The trial judge required the father to obtain a mirror order within 14 days providing for a variety of matters which would facilitate the return and that of the mother, including, inter alia, accommodation and maintenance.

Author of summary: Peter McEleavy

INCADAT comment


There has been general acceptance that where the exception of acquiescence is concerned regard must be paid in the first instance to the subjective intentions of the left behind parent, see:

Commissioner, Western Australia Police v. Dormann, JP (1997) FLC 92-766 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 213];

Barry Eldon Matthews (Commissioner, Western Australia Police Service) v. Ziba Sabaghian PT 1767 of 2001 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 345];

5Ob17/08y, Oberster Gerichtshof, (Austrian Supreme Court) 1/4/2008 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AT 981].

Considering the issue for the first time, Austria's supreme court held that acquiescence in a temporary state of affairs would not suffice for the purposes of Article 13(1) a), rather there had to be acquiescence in a durable change in habitual residence.

N° de rôle: 02/7742/A, Tribunal de première instance de Bruxelles 6/3/2003, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/BE 545];

Ibrahim v. Girgis, 2008 ONCA 23, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CA 851];

United Kingdom - England & Wales
Re H. and Others (Minors) (Abduction: Acquiescence) [1998] AC 72 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 46];

In this case the House of Lords affirmed that acquiescence was not to be found in passing remarks or letters written by a parent who has recently suffered the trauma of the removal of his children.

K. v. K., 6 May 1998, transcript, Supreme Court of Ireland [INCADAT cite: HC/E/IE 285];

Dagan v. Dagan 53 P.D (3) 254 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/IL 807];

New Zealand
P. v. P., 13 March 2002, Family Court at Greymouth (New Zealand), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/NZ 533];

United Kingdom - Scotland
M.M. v. A.M.R. or M. 2003 SCLR 71, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 500];

South Africa
Smith v. Smith 2001 (3) SA 845 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ZA 499];

5P.367/2005 /ast, Bundesgericht, II. Zivilabteilung (Tribunal Fédéral, 2ème Chambre Civile), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 841].

In keeping with this approach there has also been a reluctance to find acquiescence where the applicant parent has sought initially to secure the voluntary return of the child or a reconciliation with the abducting parent, see:

United Kingdom - England & Wales
Re H. and Others (Minors) (Abduction: Acquiescence) [1998] AC 72 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 46];

P. v. P. (Abduction: Acquiescence) [1998] 2 FLR 835, [INCADAT cite:  HC/E/UKe 179];

R.K. v. J.K. (Child Abduction: Acquiescence) [2000] 2 IR 416, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/IE 285];

United States of America
Wanninger v. Wanninger, 850 F. Supp. 78 (D. Mass. 1994), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USf 84];

In the Australian case Townsend & Director-General, Department of Families, Youth and Community (1999) 24 Fam LR 495, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 290] negotiation over the course of 12 months was taken to amount to acquiescence but, notably, in the court's exercise of its discretion it decided to make a return order.

Safe Return / Mirror Orders

A practice has arisen in a number of Contracting States for return orders to be made subject to compliance with certain specified requirements or undertakings. To ensure that such protective measures are enforceable, the applicant may be required to have these measures registered in identical or equivalent terms in the child's State of habitual residence. These replica orders are commonly referred to as ‘safe return' or ‘mirror orders'.

Return orders have been made subject to the enactment of safe return /mirror orders in the following jurisdictions:

Director-General Department of Families, Youth and Community Care and Hobbs, 24 September 1999, Family Court of Australia (Brisbane), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 294];

United Kingdom - England & Wales
Re W. (Abduction: Domestic Violence) [2004] EWHC 1247, [2004] 2 FLR 499  [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ UKe 599];

Re F. (Children) (Abduction: Removal Outside Jurisdiction) [2008] EWCA Civ. 842, [2008] 2 F.L.R. 1649 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 982];

South Africa
Sonderup v. Tondelli 2001 (1) SA 1171 (CC), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ZA 309];

Central Authority v. H. 2008 (1) SA 49 (SCA) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ZA 900].

A request by the English High Court for protective measures ancillary to an order for international contact to be registered in the State of visitation was upheld by the Panama Second Court of Childhood and Adolescence, see:

Ruling Nº393-05-F, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/PA 872].

A request that a return order be made subject to the implementation of mirror orders was turned down in:

Family Application 8743/07 Y.D.G. v T.G., [INCADAT cite: HC/E/IL 983].

The Jerusalem Family Court ruled that since accusations against the father had not been upheld there was no basis to impose conditions to ensure the children's safety, other than deposit of money to secure the father's undertaking that they could live in his apartment. There was no need to obtain a mirror order from the US courts as the delay in so doing would harm the children.


Preparation of INCADAT commentary in progress.