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Case Name

Mercredi v. Chaffe [2011] EWCA Civ. 272

INCADAT reference

HC/E/FR 1064





Court of Appeal


Appellate Court

Thorpe & Elias L.JJ.

States involved

Requesting State


Requested State




17 March 2011




Habitual Residence - Art. 3 | Removal and Retention - Arts 3 and 12 | Article 15 Decision or Determination | Procedural Matters | Brussels IIa Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003)



HC article(s) Considered


HC article(s) Relied Upon


Other provisions
Arts 8, 15, 19 of the Brussels II a Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003)
Authorities | Cases referred to
Re S. (A Minor) (Custody: Habitual Residence] [1998] AC 750; C-400/10 PPU J.McB.v. LE.

INCADAT comment

Article 12 Return Mechanism

Rights of Custody
Article 15 Decision or Determination

Inter-Relationship with International / Regional Instruments and National Law

Brussels IIa Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003)
Brussels II a Regulation

Aims & Scope of the Convention

Habitual Residence
Habitual Residence
Removal & Retention
Nature of Removal and Retention


Summary available in EN


The proceedings related to a child born in England in August 2009 to a French mother from the overseas département of the island of Réunion and a British father. The parents were not married and separated a week after the birth. On 7 October 2009 the mother took the child to Réunion. At that time the father did not have rights of custody in respect of the child under English law.

On Friday 9 October 2009, having learnt of the child's departure, the father made an application by telephone to the duty High Court judge in England, who immediately made a location order. On 12 October the father filed applications, inter alia, for parental responsibility, shared residence and access. That day the High Court made an order requiring the mother to return the child to England; the mother did not have notice of the application and therefore was neither present nor represented.  

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) subsequently considered that the English judicial authorities found themselves to be seised for the purposes of Article 16 of Brussels II a Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003) on 12 October 2009 at the latest. On 28 October 2009 the mother brought proceedings in Réunion for sole parental responsibility.

On 18 December 2009 the father brought return proceedings in Réunion for the return of the child under the 1980 Hague Convention. On 15 March 2010 that application was dismissed on the basis that he did not have rights of custody.

The father's English proceedings came to trial in April 2010. On 15 April the High Court held that: it had become seised when the father telephoned the duty judge; from that time, it had rights of custody in respect of the child; the father also acquired such rights, orders having been made in his favour; and the child was still habitually resident in England at the time the court and the father acquired custodial rights.

The father subsequently missed the time limit to appeal against the dismissal of his Convention return application. On 23 June 2010 the mother was awarded sole parental responsibility in the Réunion proceedings. On 12 July 2010 the mother filed an appeal against the decisions of the High Court. On 8 October 2010 the Court of Appeal made an order requesting a preliminary ruling from the CJEU on several questions. This was under the fast track PPU (procédure préjudicielle d'urgence) mechanism.

The CJEU held that:

"1. The concept of "habitual residence", for the purposes of Articles 8 and 10 of Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, repealing Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000, must be interpreted as meaning that such residence corresponds to the place which reflects some degree of integration by the child in a social and family environment.

To that end, where the situation concerned is that of an infant who has been staying with her mother only a few days in a Member State - other than that of her habitual residence - to which she has been removed, the factors which must be taken into consideration include, first, the duration, regularity, conditions and reasons for the stay in the territory of that Member State and for the mother's move to that State and, second, with particular reference to the child's age, the mother's geographic and family origins and the family and social connections which the mother and child have with that Member State.

It is for the national court to establish the habitual residence of the child, taking account of all the circumstances of fact specific to each individual case. If the application of the above mentioned tests were, in the case in the main proceedings, to lead to the conclusion that the child's habitual residence cannot be established, which court has jurisdiction would have to be determined on the basis of the criterion of the child's presence, under Article 13 of the Regulation.

2. Judgments of a court of a Member State which refuse to order the prompt return of a child under the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the civil aspects of international child abduction to the jurisdiction of a court of another Member State and which concern parental responsibility for that child have no effect on judgments which have to be delivered in that other Member State in proceedings relating to parental responsibility which were brought earlier and are still pending in that other Member State. "

In the light of the preliminary ruling the Court of Appeal determined the mother's appeal.


Appeal allowed and it was ordered that the proceedings be transferred to France in accordance with Article 15 of the Brussels II a Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003).


Habitual Residence - Art. 3

It was submitted on behalf of the mother that the trial judge had applied the wrong test in determining the child's habitual residence, namely by relying on House of Lords authority rather than the case law of the CJEU. This argument was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

Thorpe L.J. held that it was immaterial that the trial judge had looked to the date of 9 October rather than 12 October. Furthermore, whilst the trial judge had not explicitly referred to the case law of the Court of Justice he was deemed to have set a reliable course, having paid regard to considerations that were pointed up by the two decisions of the European Court on the habitual residence of children.

Thorpe L.J. did though question the trial judge's assertion that the mother must show not only the loss of the child's English habitual residence, but the acquisition of a habitual residence in France. Thorpe L.J. noted (para. 51): "the abandonment of habitual residence in State A may leave the child in limbo for an appreciable period before habitual residence is acquired in another state."

This disagreement did not however impact on the issue of the child's habitual residence in mid October, which remained in England and Wales.

Removal and Retention - Arts 3 and 12

The Court of Appeal accepted previous authority that a lawful removal could become a wrongful retention if a return order, made by the court of the child's habitual residence, was not complied with.

However, Thorpe L.J. held that the first instance judges involved in the application had erred in instinctively treating the present case as one of child abduction. He noted (para. 57): "Whatever may have been the mother's moral responsibility on the 7th October she exercised her right of freedom of movement with her baby. There was no restriction on her right to relocate."


Article 15 Decision or Determination

In the High Court proceedings of 15 April 2010 the trial judge made an Art 15 decision or determination that the mother's actions were wrongful. Relying on the previous authority of A. v. B. (Abduction: Rights of Custody: Declaration of Wrongful Removal) [2008] EWHC 2524 (Fam.); [2009] 1 F.L.R. 1253 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 1056] the trial judge held that he had the authority, and indeed that it was necessary for an English court to have jurisdiction, to make such a declaration in the absence of an express request from a foreign court where a parent had removed a child unilaterally from the jurisdiction.

The actions of the trial judge in this regard were criticised by the Court of Appeal panel. In this both members of the Court drew attention to the fact that the Convention return application had already been dismissed by the French court when the declaration was made, and there was the possibility of an appeal of the French order.

Furthermore, no request for a declaration had been made by the French authorities. Thorpe L.J. held that (para. 63): "As a matter of comity and the collaboration of courts within the European Union the London judge had an obligation to support the proper conclusions of the French court or, at the least, not to enter into a litigation strategy to undermine the order."

Procedural Matters

Thorpe L.J. held that there should have been communication between the relevant first instance judges to discuss the issue of jurisdiction.


Brussels IIa Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003)

In allowing the appeal Thorpe L.J. sought to draw a distinction between the different applications brought by the father. He held that the October proceedings were no longer live by the time the father had issued his originating summons in wardship on 26 January 2010. On the latter date the child was no longer habitually resident in England and Wales.

Moreover, the mother's application in Reunion on 28 October had probably seised the French courts first for the purposes of the lis alibi pendens rule of Article 19 of the Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003. The other member of the Court of Appeal panel, Elias L.J., disagreed with this approach (para. 98): "I have doubts whether the way in which the father's case was pursued procedurally ought to determine the Article 19 question."

He held that to focus on the procedural evolution of the case was unduly formalistic. He added: "It seems to me that there is a strong case for saying that the state first seised of the dispute should determine the jurisdiction issue irrespective of the specific nature of the applications made in the domestic courts, provided at least that essentially the court is dealing at all times with the same underlying dispute."

Both members of the Court of Appeal did though agree that the trial judge should have exercised his discretion under Article 15 of the Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 to transfer jurisdiction to the French courts.

Author of the summary: Peter McEleavy

INCADAT comment

Article 15 Decision or Determination

The Role and Interpretation of Article 15

Article 15 is an innovative mechanism which reflects the cooperation which is central to the 1980 Hague Convention.  It provides that the authorities of a Contracting State may, prior to making a return order, request that the applicant obtain from the authorities of the child's State of habitual residence a decision or other determination that the removal or retention was wrongful within the meaning of Article 3 of the Convention, where such a decision or determination may be obtained in that State. The Central Authorities of the Contracting States shall so far as practicable assist applicants to obtain such a decision or determination.

Scope of the Article 15 Decision or Determination Mechanism

Common law jurisdictions are divided as to the role to be played by the Article 15 mechanism, in particular whether the court in the child's State of habitual residence should make a finding as to the wrongfulness of the removal or retention, or, whether it should limit its decision to the extent to which the applicant possesses custody rights under its own law.  This division cannot be dissociated from the autonomous nature of custody rights for Convention purposes as well as that of 'wrongfulness' i.e. when rights of custody are to be deemed to have been breached.

United Kingdom - England & Wales
The Court of Appeal favoured a very strict position with regard to the scope of Article 15:

Hunter v. Murrow [2005] EWCA Civ 976, [2005] 2 F.L.R. 1119 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 809].

The Court held that where the question for determination in the requested State turned on a point of autonomous Convention law (e.g. wrongfulness) then it would be difficult to envisage any circumstances in which an Article 15 request would be worthwhile.

Deak v. Deak [2006] EWCA Civ 830 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 866].

This position was however reversed by the House of Lords in the Deak case:

Re D. (A Child) (Abduction: Rights of Custody) [2007] 1 AC 619, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 880].

Whilst there was unanimity as to the utility and binding nature of a ruling of a foreign court as to the content of the rights held by an applicant, Baroness Hale, with whom Lord Hope and Lord Brown agreed, further specified that the foreign court would additionally be much better placed than the English court to understand the true meaning and effect of its own laws in Convention terms.

New Zealand
Fairfax v. Ireton [2009] NZFLR 433 (NZ CA), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/NZ 1018].

A majority in the Court of Appeal, approving of the position adopted by the English Court of Appeal in Hunter v. Morrow, held that a court seised of an Article 15 decision or determination should restrict itself to reporting on matters of national law and not stray into the classification of a removal as being wrongful or not; the latter was exclusively a matter for the court in the State of refuge in the light of its assessment of the autonomous law of the Convention. 

Status of an Article 15 Decision or Determination

The status to be accorded to an Article 15 decision or determination has equally generated controversy, in particular the extent to which a foreign ruling should be determinative as regards the existence, or inexistence, of custody rights and in relation to the issue of wrongfulness.

In the Marriage of R. v. R., 22 May 1991, transcript, Full Court of the Family Court of Australia (Perth), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 257];

The court noted that a decision or determination under Article 15 was persuasive only and that it was ultimately a matter for the French courts to decide whether there had been a wrongful removal.

United Kingdom - England & Wales
Hunter v. Murrow [2005] EWCA Civ 976, [2005] 2 F.L.R. 1119, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 809].

The Court of Appeal held that an Article 15 decision or determination was not binding and it rejected the determination of wrongfulness made by the New Zealand High Court: M. v. H. [Custody] [2006] NZFLR 623 (HC), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 1021]. In so doing it noted that New Zealand courts did not recognise the sharp distinction between rights of custody and rights of access which had been accepted in the United Kingdom.

Deak v. Deak [2006] EWCA Civ 830, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 866].

The Court of Appeal declined to accept the finding of the Romanian courts that the father did not have rights of custody for the purposes of the Convention.

This position was however reversed by the House of Lords in the Deak case:

Re D. (A Child) (Abduction: Rights of Custody) [2007] 1 AC 619, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 880].

The House of Lords held unanimously that where an Article 15 decision or determination was sought the ruling of the foreign court as to the content of the rights held by the applicant must be treated as conclusive, save in exceptional cases where, for example, the ruling had been obtained by fraud or in breach of the rules of natural justice. Such circumstances were absent in the present case, therefore the trial court and the Court of Appeal had erred in disregarding the decision of the Bucharest Court of Appeal and in allowing fresh evidence to be adduced.

As regards the characterisation of the parent's rights, Baroness Hale, with whom Lord Hope and Lord Brown agreed, held that it would only be where this was clearly out of line with the international understanding of the Convention's terms, as might well have been the case in Hunter v. Murrow, should the court in the requested state decline to follow it. For his part Lord Brown affirmed that the determination of content and classification by the foreign court should almost invariably be treated as conclusive.

5A_479/2007/frs, Tribunal fédéral, IIè cour civile, 17 octobre 2007, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 953].

The Swiss supreme court held that a finding on custody rights would in principle bind the authorities in the requested State.  As regards an Article 15 decision or determination, the court noted that commentators were divided as to the effect in the requested State and it declined to make a finding on the issue.

Practical Implications of Seeking an Article 15 Decision or Determination

Recourse to the Article 15 mechanism will inevitably lead to delay in the conduct of a return petition, particularly should there happen to be an appeal against the original determination by the authorities in the State of habitual residence. See for example:

Re D. (A Child) (Abduction: Rights of Custody) [2007] 1 AC 619, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 880].

This practical reality has in turn generated a wide range of judicial views.

In Re D. a variety of opinions were canvassed. Lord Carswell affirmed that resort to the procedure should be kept to a minimum. Lord Brown noted that it would only be used on rare occasions. Lord Hope counselled against seeking perfection in ascertaining whether a removal or retention was wrongful, rather a balance had to be struck between acting on too little information and searching for too much. Baroness Hale noted that when a country first acceded to the Convention Article 15 might be useful in cases of doubt to obtain an authoritative ruling on the content and effect of the local law.

New Zealand
Fairfax v. Ireton [2009] NZFLR 433 (NZ CA), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/NZ 1018].

The majority in the Court of Appeal, suggested that Article 15 requests should only rarely be made as between Australia and New Zealand, given the similarities of the legal systems.

Alternatives to Seeking an Article 15 Decision or Determination

Whilst courts may simply wish to determine the foreign law in the light of the available information, an alternative is to seek expert evidence.  Experience in England and Wales has shown that this is far from fool-proof and does not necessarily result in time being saved, see: 

Re F. (A Child) (Abduction: Refusal to Order Summary Return) [2009] EWCA Civ 416, [2009] 2 F.L.R. 1023, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 1020].

In the latter case Thorpe L.J. suggested that greater recourse could be made to the European Judicial Network, through the International Family Law Office at the Royal Courts of Justice. Pragmatic advice could be offered as to the best route to follow in a particular case: whether to go for a single joint expert; whether to go for an Article 15 decision or determination; or whether to go for an opinion from the liaison judge as to the law of his own country, an opinion that would not be binding but which would perhaps help the parties and the trial court to see the weight, or want of weight, in the challenge to the plaintiff's ability to cross the Article 3 threshold.

Brussels II a Regulation

The application of the 1980 Hague Convention within the Member States of the European Union (Denmark excepted) has been amended following the entry into force of Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, repealing Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000, see:

Affaire C-195/08 PPU Rinau v. Rinau, [2008] ECR I 5271 [2008] 2 FLR 1495 [Référence INCADAT : HC/E/ 987];

Affaire C 403/09 PPU Detiček v. Sgueglia, [Référence INCADAT : HC/E/ 1327].

The Hague Convention remains the primary tool to combat child abductions within the European Union but its operation has been fine tuned.

An autonomous EU definition of ‘rights of custody' has been adopted: Article 2(9) of the Brussels II a Regulation, which is essentially the same as that found in Article 5 a) of the Hague Child Abduction Convention. There is equally an EU formula for determining the wrongfulness of a removal or retention: Article 2(11) of the Regulation. The latter embodies the key elements of Article 3 of the Convention, but adds an explanation as to the joint exercise of custody rights, an explanation which accords with international case law.

See: Case C-400/10 PPU J Mc.B. v. L.E, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 1104].

Of greater significance is Article 11 of the Brussels II a Regulation.

Article 11(2) of the Brussels II a Regulation requires that when applying Articles 12 and 13 of the 1980 Hague Convention that the child is given the opportunity to be heard during the proceedings, unless this appears inappropriate having regard to his age or degree of maturity.

This obligation has led to a realignment in judicial practice in England, see:

Re D. (A Child) (Abduction: Rights of Custody) [2006] UKHL 51, [2007] 1 A.C. 619 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 880] where Baroness Hale noted that the reform would lead to children being heard more frequently in Hague cases than had hitherto happened.

Re M. (A Child) (Abduction: Child's Objections to Return) [2007] EWCA Civ 260, [2007] 2 FLR 72,  [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 901]

The Court of Appeal endorsed the suggestion by Baroness Hale that the requirement under the Brussels II a Regulation to ascertain the views of children of sufficient age of maturity was not restricted to intra-European Community cases of child abduction, but was a principle of universal application.

Article 11(3) of the Brussels II a Regulation requires Convention proceedings to be dealt with within 6 weeks.

Klentzeris v. Klentzeris [2007] EWCA Civ 533, [2007] 2 FLR 996, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 931]

Thorpe LJ held that this extended to appeal hearings and as such recommended that applications for permission to appeal should be made directly to the trial judge and that the normal 21 day period for lodging a notice of appeal should be restricted.

Article 11(4) of the Brussels II a Regulation provides that the return of a child cannot be refused under Article 13(1) b) of the Hague Convention if it is established that adequate arrangements have been made to secure the protection of the child after his return.

Cases in which reliance has been placed on Article 11(4) of the Brussels II a Regulation to make a return order include:

CA Bordeaux, 19 janvier 2007, No 06/002739 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/FR 947];

CA Paris 15 février 2007 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/FR 979].

The relevant protection was found not to exist, leading to a non-return order being made, in:

CA Aix-en-Provence, 30 novembre 2006, N° RG 06/03661 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/FR 717].

The most notable element of Article 11 is the new mechanism which is now applied where a non-return order is made on the basis of Article 13.  This allows the authorities in the State of the child's habitual residence to rule on whether the child should be sent back notwithstanding the non-return order.  If a subsequent return order is made under Article 11(7) of the Regulation, and is certified by the issuing judge, then it will be automatically enforceable in the State of refuge and all other EU-Member States.

Article 11(7) Brussels II a Regulation - Return Order Granted:

Re A. (Custody Decision after Maltese Non-return Order: Brussels II Revised) [2006] EWHC 3397 (Fam.), [2007] 1 FLR 1923 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 883]

Article 11(7) Brussels II a Regulation - Return Order Refused:

Re A. H.A. v. M.B. (Brussels II Revised: Article 11(7) Application) [2007] EWHC 2016 (Fam), [2008] 1 FLR 289, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 930].

The CJEU has ruled that a subsequent return order does not have to be a final order for custody:

Case C-211/10 PPU Povse v. Alpago, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 1328].

In this case it was further held that the enforcement of a return order cannot be refused as a result of a change of circumstances.  Such a change must be raised before the competent court in the Member State of origin.

Furthermore abducting parents may not seek to subvert the deterrent effect of Council Regulation 2201/2003 in seeking to obtain provisional measures to prevent the enforcement of a custody order aimed at securing the return of an abducted child:

Case C 403/09 PPU Detiček v. Sgueglia, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 1327].

For academic commentary on the new EU regime see:

P. McEleavy ‘The New Child Abduction Regime in the European Community: Symbiotic Relationship or Forced Partnership?' [2005] Journal of Private International Law 5 - 34.

Habitual Residence

The interpretation of the central concept of habitual residence (Preamble, Art. 3, Art. 4) has proved increasingly problematic in recent years with divergent interpretations emerging in different jurisdictions. There is a lack of uniformity as to whether in determining habitual residence the emphasis should be exclusively on the child, with regard paid to the intentions of the child's care givers, or primarily on the intentions of the care givers. At least partly as a result, habitual residence may appear a very flexible connecting factor in some Contracting States yet much more rigid and reflective of long term residence in others.

Any assessment of the interpretation of habitual residence is further complicated by the fact that cases focusing on the concept may concern very different factual situations. For example habitual residence may arise for consideration following a permanent relocation, or a more tentative move, albeit one which is open-ended or potentially open-ended, or indeed the move may be for a clearly defined period of time.

General Trends:

United States Federal Appellate case law may be taken as an example of the full range of interpretations which exist with regard to habitual residence.

Child Centred Focus

The United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has advocated strongly for a child centred approach in the determination of habitual residence:

Friedrich v. Friedrich, 983 F.2d 1396, 125 ALR Fed. 703 (6th Cir. 1993) (6th Cir. 1993) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 142]

Robert v. Tesson, 507 F.3d 981 (6th Cir. 2007) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/US 935].

See also:

Villalta v. Massie, No. 4:99cv312-RH (N.D. Fla. Oct. 27, 1999) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 221].

Combined Child's Connection / Parental Intention Focus

The United States Courts of Appeals for the 3rd and 8th Circuits, have espoused a child centred approach but with reference equally paid to the parents' present shared intentions.

The key judgment is that of Feder v. Evans-Feder, 63 F.3d 217 (3d Cir. 1995) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 83].

See also:

Silverman v. Silverman, 338 F.3d 886 (8th Cir. 2003) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 530];

Karkkainen v. Kovalchuk, 445 F.3d 280 (3rd Cir. 2006) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 879].

In the latter case a distinction was drawn between the situation of very young children, where particular weight was placed on parental intention(see for example: Baxter v. Baxter, 423 F.3d 363 (3rd Cir. 2005) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 808]) and that of older children where the impact of parental intention was more limited.

Parental Intention Focus

The judgment of the Federal Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Mozes v. Mozes, 239 F.3d 1067 (9th Cir. 2001) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 301] has been highly influential in providing that there should ordinarily be a settled intention to abandon an existing habitual residence before a child can acquire a new one.

This interpretation has been endorsed and built upon in other Federal appellate decisions so that where there was not a shared intention on the part of the parents as to the purpose of the move this led to an existing habitual residence being retained, even though the child had been away from that jurisdiction for an extended period of time. See for example:

Holder v. Holder, 392 F.3d 1009 (9th Cir 2004) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 777]: United States habitual residence retained after 8 months of an intended 4 year stay in Germany;

Ruiz v. Tenorio, 392 F.3d 1247 (11th Cir. 2004) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 780]: United States habitual residence retained during 32 month stay in Mexico;

Tsarbopoulos v. Tsarbopoulos, 176 F. Supp.2d 1045 (E.D. Wash. 2001) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 482]: United States habitual residence retained during 27 month stay in Greece.

The Mozes approach has also been approved of by the Federal Court of Appeals for the 2nd and 7th Circuits:

Gitter v. Gitter, 396 F.3d 124 (2nd Cir. 2005) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 776];

Koch v. Koch, 450 F.3d 703 (2006 7th Cir.) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 878].

It should be noted that within the Mozes approach the 9th Circuit did acknowledge that given enough time and positive experience, a child's life could become so firmly embedded in the new country as to make it habitually resident there notwithstanding lingering parental intentions to the contrary.

Other Jurisdictions

There are variations of approach in other jurisdictions:

The Supreme Court of Austria has ruled that a period of residence of more than six months in a State will ordinarily be characterized as habitual residence, and even if it takes place against the will of the custodian of the child (since it concerns a factual determination of the centre of life).

8Ob121/03g, Oberster Gerichtshof [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/AT 548].

In the Province of Quebec, a child centred focus is adopted:

In Droit de la famille 3713, No 500-09-010031-003 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CA 651], the Cour d'appel de Montréal held that the determination of the habitual residence of a child was a purely factual issue to be decided in the light of the circumstances of the case with regard to the reality of the child's life, rather than that of his parents. The actual period of residence must have endured for a continuous and not insignificant period of time; the child must have a real and active link to the place, but there is no minimum period of residence which is specified.

A child centred, factual approach is also evident in German case law:

2 UF 115/02, Oberlandesgericht Karlsruhe [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/DE 944].

This has led to the Federal Constitutional Court accepting that a habitual residence may be acquired notwithstanding the child having been wrongfully removed to the new State of residence:

Bundesverfassungsgericht, 2 BvR 1206/98, 29. Oktober 1998  [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/DE 233].

The Constitutional Court upheld the finding of the Higher Regional Court that the children had acquired a habitual residence in France, notwithstanding the nature of their removal there. This was because habitual residence was a factual concept and during their nine months there, the children had become integrated into the local environment.

Alternative approaches have been adopted when determining the habitual residence of children. On occasion, strong emphasis has been placed on parental intentions. See:

Family Appeal 1026/05 Ploni v. Almonit [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/Il 865];

Family Application 042721/06 G.K. v Y.K. [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/Il 939].

However, reference has been made to a more child centred approach in other cases. See:

decision of the Supreme Court in C.A. 7206/03, Gabai v. Gabai, P.D. 51(2)241;

FamA 130/08 H v H [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/Il 922].

New Zealand
In contrast to the Mozes approach the requirement of a settled intention to abandon an existing habitual residence was specifically rejected by a majority of the New Zealand Court of Appeal. See

S.K. v. K.P. [2005] 3 NZLR 590 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/NZ 816].

A child centred, factual approach is evident in Swiss case law:

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

United Kingdom
The standard approach is to consider the settled intention of the child's carers in conjunction with the factual reality of the child's life.

Re J. (A Minor) (Abduction: Custody Rights) [1990] 2 AC 562, [1990] 2 All ER 961, [1990] 2 FLR 450, sub nom C. v. S. (A Minor) (Abduction) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 2]. For academic commentary on the different models of interpretation given to habitual residence. See:

R. Schuz, "Habitual Residence of Children under the Hague Child Abduction Convention: Theory and Practice", Child and Family Law Quarterly Vol 13, No. 1, 2001, p. 1;

R. Schuz, "Policy Considerations in Determining Habitual Residence of a Child and the Relevance of Context", Journal of Transnational Law and Policy Vol. 11, 2001, p. 101.

Nature of Removal and Retention

Preparation of INCADAT commentary in progress.