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Case Name

Central Authority of the Republic of South Africa and Another v LG 2011 (2) SA 386 (GNP)

INCADAT reference

HC/E/ZA 722





North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria


First Instance

Molopa-Sethosa J

States involved

Requesting State


Requested State




22 April 2010




Consent - Art. 13(1)(a) | Grave Risk - Art. 13(1)(b)


Return refused

HC article(s) Considered

3 12 13(1)(a) 13(1)(b)

HC article(s) Relied Upon

13(1)(a) 13(1)(b)

Other provisions


Authorities | Cases referred to
Central Authority (South Africa) v. A 2007 (5) SA 501 (W); Pennello v. Pennello (Chief Family Advocate as Amicus Curiae) 2004 (3) SA 117 (SCA); Senior Family Advocate, Cape Town, and Another v. Houtman 2004 (6) SA 274 (C); Smith v. Smith 2001 (3) SA 845 (SCA); G Sonderup v. Tondelli and Another 2001 (1) SA 1171 (CC).

INCADAT comment

Exceptions to Return

Classifying Consent
Grave Risk of Harm
Primary Carer Abductions


Summary available in EN


The proceedings concerned a child born in October 2007 to parents who had married in June 2003. On 3 February 2009, the mother took the child from the United Kingdom to South Africa. The circumstances surrounding the move were the subject of dispute between the parents. It was the father's case that mother and child had travelled to attend a wedding on 28 February and would return thereafter.

For the mother, it was submitted that she took the child to South Africa with the consent of the father after they had agreed to separate permanently.In March 2009, the parents discussed divorce, via Skype, with a South African lawyer. Thereafter, the father started proceedings for the return of the child.


Return refused; the applicant father was found to have consented to the child living in South Africa permanently and the child would face a grave risk of harm if returned to the applicant.


Consent - Art. 13(1)(a)

The Court found that on the facts the father had consented to the child living in South Africa permanently. The father may have harboured hopes that the mother would return to the United Kingdom despite the parties having agreed on separation and divorce, but this did not detract from the fact that they had agreed on the terms of the divorce and had confirmed these with the South African lawyer.

The Court noted that even if it were accepted that the parties had not agreed to separation, divorce and custody issues, the father had nevertheless been prepared to be apart from his son for at least six months. This was held not to be indicative of a close bond between the two.

Grave Risk - Art. 13(1)(b)

The Court further found that the child would be exposed to a grave risk of harm if returned to the father. The Court held that the father did not have the best interests of the child at heart, and there was undisputed evidence the child's health had improved since being in South Africa.

Authors of the summary: Peter McEleavy and Erika du Plessis (Office of the Chief Family Advocate, South Africa)

INCADAT comment

Classifying Consent

The classification of consent has given rise to difficulty. Some courts have indeed considered that the issue of consent goes to the wrongfulness of the removal or retention and should therefore be considered within Article 3, see:

In the Marriage of Regino and Regino v. The Director-General, Department of Families Services and Aboriginal and Islander Affairs Central Authority (1995) FLC 92-587 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 312];

CA Rouen, 9 mars 2006, N°05/04340, [INCADAT cite : HC/E/FR 897];

United Kingdom - England & Wales
Re O. (Abduction: Consent and Acquiescence) [1997] 1 FLR 924 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 54];

Re P.-J. (Children) [2009] EWCA Civ 588, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 1014].

Although the issue had ostensibly been settled in English case law, that consent was to be considered under Art 13(1) a), neither member of the two judge panel of the Court of Appeal appeared entirely convinced of this position. 

Reference can equally be made to examples where trial courts have not considered the Art 3 - Art 13(1) a) distinction, but where consent, in terms of initially going along with a move, has been treated as relevant to wrongfulness, see:

F.C. c. P.A., Droit de la famille - 08728, Cour supérieure de Chicoutimi, 28 mars 2008, N°150-04-004667-072, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CA 969];

U/EU970069, Bezirksgericht Zürich (Zurich District Court), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 425];

United Kingdom - Scotland
Murphy v. Murphy 1994 GWD 32-1893 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 186].

The case was not considered in terms of the Art 3 - Art 13(1) a) distinction, but given that the father initially went along with the relocation it was held that there would be neither a wrongful removal or retention.

The majority view is now though that consent should be considered in relation to Article 13(1) a), see:

Director-General, Department of Child Safety v. Stratford [2005] Fam CA 1115, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 830];

United Kingdom - England & Wales
Re C. (Abduction: Consent) [1996] 1 FLR 414, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 53];

T. v. T. (Abduction: Consent) [1999] 2 FLR 912;

Re D. (Abduction: Discretionary Return) [2000] 1 FLR 24, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 267];

Re P. (A Child) (Abduction: Acquiescence) [2004] EWCA CIV 971, [2005] Fam. 293, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 591];

B.B. v. J.B. [1998] 1 ILRM 136; sub nom B. v. B. (Child Abduction) [1998] 1 IR 299, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/IE 287];

United Kingdom - Scotland
T. v. T. 2004 S.C. 323, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 997];

For a discussion of the issues involved see Beaumont & McEleavy, The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, OUP, 1999 at p. 132 et seq.

Primary Carer Abductions

The issue of how to respond when a taking parent who is a primary carer threatens not to accompany a child back to the State of habitual residence if a return order is made, is a controversial one.

There are examples from many Contracting States where courts have taken a very strict approach so that, other than in exceptional situations, the Article 13(1)(b) exception has not been upheld where the non-return argument has been raised, see:

4Ob1523/96, Oberster Gerichtshof [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/AT 561]

M.G. v. R.F., 2002 R.J.Q. 2132 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CA 762]

N.P. v. A.B.P., 1999 R.D.F. 38 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CA 764]

In this case, a non-return order was made since the facts were exceptional. There had been a genuine threat to the mother, which had put her quite obviously and rightfully in fear for her safety if she returned to Israel. The mother was taken to Israel on false pretences, sold to the Russian Mafia and re-sold to the father who forced her into prostitution. She was locked in, beaten by the father, raped and threatened. The mother was genuinely in a state of fear and could not be expected to return to Israel. It would be wholly inappropriate to send the child back without his mother to a father who had been buying and selling women and running a prostitution business.

United Kingdom - England and Wales
C. v. C. (Minor: Abduction: Rights of Custody Abroad) [1989] 1 WLR 654 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 34]

Re C. (Abduction: Grave Risk of Psychological Harm) [1999] 1 FLR 1145 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 269]

However, in a more recent English Court of Appeal judgment, the C. v. C. approach has been refined:

Re S. (A Child) (Abduction: Grave Risk of Harm) [2002] 3 FCR 43, [2002] EWCA Civ 908 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 469]

In this case, it was ruled that a mother's refusal to return was capable of amounting to a defence because the refusal was not an act of unreasonableness, but came about as a result of an illness she was suffering from. It may be noted, however, that a return order was nevertheless still made. In this context reference may also be made to the decisions of the United Kingdom Supreme Court in Re E. (Children) (Abduction: Custody Appeal) [2011] UKSC 27, [2012] 1 A.C. 144 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 1068] and Re S. (A Child) (Abduction: Rights of Custody) [2012] UKSC 10, [2012] 2 A.C. 257 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 1147], in which it was accepted that the anxieties of a respondent mother about return, which were not based upon objective risk to her but nevertheless were of such intensity as to be likely, in the event of a return, to destabilise her parenting of the child to the point at which the child's situation would become intolerable, could in principle meet the threshold of the Article 13(1)(b) exception.

Oberlandesgericht Dresden, 10 UF 753/01, 21 January 2002 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/DE 486]

Oberlandesgericht Köln, 21 UF 70/01, 12 April 2001 [INCADAT: HC/E/DE 491]

Previously a much more liberal interpretation had been adopted:
Oberlandesgericht Stuttgart, 17 UF 260/98, 25 November 1998 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/DE 323]

5P_71/2003/min, II. Zivilabteilung, arrêt du TF du 27 mars 2003 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CH 788]

5P_65/2002/bnm, II. Zivilabteilung, arrêt du TF du 11 avril 2002 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CH 789]

5P_367/2005/ast, II. Zivilabteilung, arrêt du TF du 15 novembre 2005 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CH 841]

5A_285/2007/frs, IIe Cour de droit civil, arrêt du TF du 16 août 2007 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CH 955]

5A_479/2012, IIe Cour de droit civil, arrêt du TF du 13 juillet 2012 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CH 1179]

New Zealand
K.S. v. L.S. [2003] 3 NZLR 837 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/NZ 770]

United Kingdom - Scotland
McCarthy v. McCarthy [1994] SLT 743 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKs 26]

United States of America
Panazatou v. Pantazatos, No. FA 96071351S (Conn. Super. Ct., 1997) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USs 97]

In other Contracting States, the approach taken with regard to non-return arguments has varied:

In Australia, early Convention case law exhibited a very strict approach adopted with regard to non-return arguments, see:

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

Director General of the Department of Family and Community Services v. Davis (1990) FLC 92-182 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/AU 293]
In State Central Authority v. Ardito, 20 October 1997 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/AU 283], the Family Court of Australia at Melbourne did find the grave risk of harm exception to be established where the mother would not return, but in this case the mother had been denied entry into the United States of America, the child's State of habitual residence.

Following the judgment of the High Court of Australia (the highest court in the Australian judicial system) in the joint appeals DP v. Commonwealth Central Authority; J.L.M. v. Director-General, NSW Department of Community Services [2001] HCA 39, (2001) 180 ALR 402 [INCADAT Reference HC/E/AU 346, 347], greater attention has been focused on the post-return situation facing abducted children.

In the context of a primary-carer taking parent refusing to return to the child's State of habitual residence see: Director General, Department of Families v. RSP. [2003] FamCA 623 [INCADAT Reference HC/E/AU 544]. 

In French case law, a permissive approach to Article 13(1)(b) has been replaced with a much more restrictive interpretation. For examples of the initial approach, see:

Cass. Civ 1ère 12. 7. 1994, S. c. S.. See Rev. Crit. 84 (1995), p. 96 note H. Muir Watt; JCP 1996 IV 64 note Bosse-Platière, Defrénois 1995, art. 36024, note J. Massip [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/FR 103]

Cass. Civ 1ère, 22 juin 1999, No de RG 98-17902 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/FR 498]

And for examples of the stricter interpretation, see:

Cass Civ 1ère, 25 janvier 2005, No de RG 02-17411 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/FR 708]

CA Agen, 1 décembre 2011, No de RG 11/01437 [INCADAT Reference HC/E/FR 1172]

In Israeli case law there are contrasting examples of the judicial response to non-return arguments:
Civil Appeal 4391/96 Ro v. Ro [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/IL 832]

in contrast with:

Family Appeal 621/04 D.Y v. D.R [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/IL 833]

Decision of the Supreme Court, 7 October 1998, I CKN 745/98 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/PL 700]

The Supreme Court noted that it would not be in the child's best interests if she were deprived of her mother's care, were the latter to choose to remain in Poland. However, it equally affirmed that if the child were to stay in Poland it would not be in her interests to be deprived of the care of her father. For these reasons, the Court concluded that it could not be assumed that ordering the return of the child would place her in an intolerable situation.

Decision of the Supreme Court, 1 December 1999, I CKN 992/99 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/PL 701]

The Supreme Court specified that the frequently used argument of the child's potential separation from the taking parent, did not, in principle, justify the application of the exception. It held that where there were no objective obstacles to the return of a taking parent, then it could be assumed that the taking parent considered his own interest to be more important than those of the child.

The Court added that a taking parent's fear of being held criminally liable was not an objective obstacle to return, as the taking parent should have been aware of the consequences of his actions. The situation with regard to infants was however more complicated. The Court held that the special bond between mother and baby only made their separation possible in exceptional cases, and this was so even if there were no objective obstacles to the mother's return to the State of habitual residence. The Court held that where the mother of an infant refused to return, whatever the reason, then the return order should be refused on the basis of Article 13(1)(b). On the facts, return was ordered.

Solicitud conforme al Convenio de La Haya sobre los Aspectos Civiles de la Sustracción Internacional de Menores - Casación, IUE 9999-68/2010 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UY 1185]

European Court of Human Rights (ECrtHR)
There are decisions of the ECrtHR which have endorsed a strict approach with regard to the compatibility of Hague Convention exceptions and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Some of these cases have considered arguments relevant to the issue of grave risk of harm, including where an abductor has indicated an unwillingness to accompany the returning child, see:

Ilker Ensar Uyanık c. Turquie (Application No 60328/09) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 1169]

In this case, the ECrtHR upheld a challenge by the left-behind father that the refusal of the Turkish courts to return his child led to a breach of Article 8 of the ECHR. The ECrtHR stated that whilst very young age was a criterion to be taken into account to determine the child's interest in an abduction case, it could not be considered by itself a sufficient ground, in relation to the requirements of the Hague Convention, to justify dismissal of a return application.

Recourse has been had to expert evidence to assist in ascertaining the potential consequences of the child being separated from the taking parent

Maumousseau and Washington v. France (Application No 39388/05) of 6 December 2007 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 942]

Lipowsky and McCormack v. Germany (Application No 26755/10) of 18 January 2011 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 1201]

MR and LR v. Estonia (Application No 13420/12) of 15 May 2012 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 1177]

However, it must equally be noted that since the Grand Chamber ruling in Neulinger and Shuruk v. Switzerland, there are examples of a less strict approach being followed. The latter ruling had emphasised the best interests of the individual abducted child in the context of an application for return and the ascertainment of whether the domestic courts had conducted an in-depth examination of the entire family situation as well as a balanced and reasonable assessment of the respective interests of each person, see:

Neulinger and Shuruk v. Switzerland (Application No 41615/07), Grand Chamber, of 6 July 2010 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 1323]

X. v. Latvia (Application No 27853/09) of 13 December 2011 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 1146]; and Grand Chamber ruling X. v. Latvia (Application No 27853/09), Grand Chamber [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 1234]

B. v. Belgium (Application No 4320/11) of 10 July 2012 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/ 1171]

In this case, a majority found that the return of a child to the United States of America would lead to a breach of Article 8 of the ECHR. The decision-making process of the Belgian Appellate Court as regards Article 13(1)(b) was held not to have met the procedural requirements inherent in Article 8 of the ECHR. The two dissenting judges noted, however, that the danger referred to in Article 13 should not consist only of the separation of the child from the taking parent.

(Author: Peter McEleavy, April 2013)