Beer-Sheva District Court
UNITED KINGDOM - ENGLAND AND WALES
31 August 2008
Habitual Residence - Art. 3
Deputy President Hendel, delivering the judgment of the court, reviewed in detail the two approaches to habitual residence found in Hague case law both in Israel and in other countries: the 'factual approach' and the 'parental intention' based approach.
He came to the conclusion that the appropriate approach was a combined one, which focused on the current life of the child, from the child's point of view. The examination was essentially factual (comprehensive and in depth), but would include reference to parental intention which was relevant as a fact.
This approach was consistent with the Supreme Court's statement in the case of C.A. 7206/03, G. v. G., P.D. 51(2)241 that habitual residence reflects the continuing reality of life from the point of view of the child.
In this case, looking at the story of the child's life, the father had not succeeded in proving that the attempt to change the child's habitual residence had materialized. In particular, the two month stay in Israel in the autumn of 2007 had interrupted the continuity of the child's life in England.
Author of the summary: Prof. Rhona Schuz, Israel
This decision adopts a "via media" between the two alternative theories of habitual residence. For earlier academic support for such an approach see: R. Schuz "Habitual Residence of Children Under the Hague Child Abduction Convention - Theory and Practice" (2001) Child and Family Law Quarterly Vol. 13, 1.
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.
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].
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].
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.
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].
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.  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].
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)  2 AC 562,  2 All ER 961,  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.
Where a move is open ended, or potentially open ended, the habitual residence at the time of the move may also be lost and a new one acquired relatively quickly, see:
United Kingdom - England and Wales (Non-Convention case)
Al Habtoor v. Fotheringham  EWCA Civ 186, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 875];
Callaghan v. Thomas  NZFLR 1105 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/NZ 413];
United Kingdom - Scotland
Cameron v. Cameron 1996 SC 17, 1996 SLT 306, 1996 SCLR 25 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 71];
Moran v. Moran 1997 SLT 541 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 74];
United States of America
Karkkainen v. Kovalchuk, 445 F.3d 280 (3rd Cir. 2006), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USf 879].
Where a move abroad is time limited, even if it is for an extended period of time, there has been acceptance in certain Contracting States that the existing habitual residence can be maintained throughout, see:
Ø.L.K., 5. April 2002, 16. afdeling, B-409-02 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/DK 520];
United Kingdom - England & Wales
Re H. (Abduction: Habitual Residence: Consent)  2 FLR 294;  3 FCR 412 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 478];
United States of America
Morris v. Morris, 55 F. Supp. 2d 1156 (D. Colo., Aug. 30, 1999) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USf 306];
Mozes v. Mozes, 239 F.3d 1067 (9th Cir. 2001) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USf 301].
However, where a move was to endure for two years the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that a change of habitual residence occurred shortly after the move, see:
Whiting v. Krassner 391 F.3d 540 (3rd Cir. 2004) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/US 778].
In an English first instance decision it was held that a child had acquired a habitual residence in Germany after five months even though the family had only moved there for a six month secondment, see:
Re R. (Abduction: Habitual Residence)  EWHC 1968 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 580].
The Court of Appeal of China (Hong Kong SAR) found that a 21 month move led to a change in habitual residence:
B.L.W. v. B.W.L.  2 HKLRD 193, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/HK 975].