No full text available

Case Name

2008 QCSC 5320, Superior Court of Québec (District of Hull)

INCADAT reference

HC/E/CA 926





Superior Court of Québec


First Instance

Jean-Pierre Plouffe J.S.C.

States involved

Requesting State


Requested State




11 November 2008




Grave Risk - Art. 13(1)(b) | Objections of the Child to a Return - Art. 13(2)


Return ordered

HC article(s) Considered

13(1)(b) 13(2)

HC article(s) Relied Upon

13(1)(b) 13(2)

Other provisions


Authorities | Cases referred to
Thomson v. Thomson [1994] 3 S.C.R. 551, pp. 596-597; Droit de la famille – 08497, J.E. 2008-802 (S.C.); Droit de la famille – 3202, [1999] R.J.Q. 248, 258 (S.C.).

INCADAT comment

Exceptions to Return

Grave Risk of Harm
Allegations of Inappropriate Behaviour / Sexual Abuse
Child's Objection
Nature and Strength of Objection


Summary available in EN


The children were aged 10 and 12 at the date of the wrongful retention.  They were born in Canada (Quebec). The court found (despite contradictory evidence from the parents) that from 2002 the children had lived in Greece. The parents were Greek nationals who had moved to Quebec in 1995 shortly after their marriage.

The court determined that, in February 2005, the father had returned to Canada with the intention of settling there. In the summer of 2005, the children visited their father in Canada. In June 2008, the parents agreed that the children would visit their father in Canada from 24 June to 19 August 2008. The father had not seen the children since the summer of 2005.

On 19 August 2008, the father did not return the children. Instead he issued proceedings in the Superior Court of Québec and alleged that the children were victims of physical abuse by their mother and that they objected to being returned to Greece. He was granted interim custody of the children.

On 29 August 2008, the mother filed an application in the Greek Court for interim custody of the children (which was granted) and requested assistance from the Greek Central Authority to secure the immediate return of the children pursuant to the Hague Convention.

The father admitted that the retention of the children was wrongful in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention. He argued, however, that there was a grave risk that the children's return would expose them to physical harm (Article 13(1)(b) of the Convention) and that the children's objections to being returned to Greece had to be taken into account bearing in mind their age and maturity (Article 13(2) of the Convention).


Mother's application allowed and immediate return of the children to Greece ordered. The children were wrongfully retained and no exception had been established. 


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

The Court noted it was not required to determine whether the children were victims of physical abuse. It had to determine whether there was a grave risk, i.e., a risk greater than an ordinary risk, that the children's return would expose them to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place them in an intolerable situation.

The Court found the children's statements that they were victims of physical abuse by their mother had to be treated with great caution. There was no evidence to corroborate the statements; there were discrepancies in the children's descriptions of events; the father admitted that there had been no abuse of the children by the mother during the marriage; the children were impressionable and had a strong desire to please both parents.

The court also doubted the father's credibility and noted that he had had the opportunity to influence the children. The Court found that the preponderance of evidence did not establish that there was a grave risk within the meaning of the Convention.

Objections of the Child to a Return - Art. 13(2)

The Court noted that this exception could not be considered independently from Art. 13(1)(b) because the children's objections to return were based primarily on the physical abuse they had allegedly suffered. In light of the children's ages the Court stated that it would take into account their objections without feeling obliged to act in accordance with them.

In addition, the Court had met with the children individually in chambers and noted their immaturity and apparent lack of understanding. It therefore held that the children had not reached an age or degree of maturity where it would be appropriate to take their views into account.

INCADAT comment

Allegations of Inappropriate Behaviour / Sexual Abuse

Courts have responded in different ways when faced with allegations that the left-behind parent has acted inappropriately or sexually abused the wrongfully removed or retained children. In the most straightforward cases the accusations may simply be dismissed as unfounded. Where this is not possible courts have been divided as to whether a detailed investigation should be undertaken in the State of refuge, or, whether the relevant assessment should be conducted in the State of habitual residence, with interim measures being taken to attempt to protect the child on his return.

- Accusations Dismissed:


Civ. Liège (réf) 14 mars 2002, Ministère public c/ A [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/BE 706]

The father claimed that the mother sought the return of the child to have her declared mentally incapable and to sell her organs. The Court held, however, that even if the father's accusations were firmly held, they were not backed up by any evidence.
Canada (Québec)
Droit de la famille 2675, No 200-04-003138-979 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CA 666]
The Court held that if the mother had serious concerns with regard to her son, then she would not have left him in the care of the father on holiday after what she claimed there had been a serious incident.
J.M. c. H.A., Droit de la famille, No 500-04-046027-075 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CA 968]

The mother claimed that a grave risk arose because the father was a sexual predator.
The Court noted that such allegations had been rejected in foreign proceedings. It equally drew attention to the fact that Convention proceedings concerned the return of the child and not the issue of custody. The fears of the mother and of the maternal grandparents were deemed to be largely irrational. There was also no proof that the judicial authorities in the State of habitual residence were corrupt. The Court instead expressed concerns about the actions of members of the maternal family (who had abducted the child notwithstanding the existence of three court orders to the contrary) as well as the mental state of the mother, who had kept the child in a state of fear of the father.

CA Amiens, 4 mars 1998, No de RG 5704759 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/FR 704]

The Court rejected the allegation of physical violence against the father; if there had been violence, it was not of the level required to activate Article 13(1)(b).

New Zealand
Wolfe v. Wolfe [1993] NZFLR 277 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/NZ 303]

The Court rejected arguments by the mother that the father's alleged sexual practices would place the child at a grave risk of harm. The Court held that there was no evidence a return would expose the child to the level of harm contemplated under Article 13(1)(b).

Obergericht des Kantons Zürich (Appellate Court of the Canton Zurich), 28/01/1997, U/NL960145/II.ZK [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/CH 426]

The mother argued that the father was a danger to the children because, inter alia, he had sexually abused the daughter. In rejecting this accusation, the Court noted that the mother had previously been willing to leave the children in the father's sole care whilst she went abroad.

- Return ordered with investigation to be carried out in the State of habitual residence:

United Kingdom - England and Wales

N. v. N. (Abduction: Article 13 Defence) [1995] 1 FLR 107 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 19]

The possible risk to the daughter needed to be investigated in the pending custody proceedings in Australia. In the interim, the child needed protection. However, this protection did not require the refusal of the application for her return. Such risk of physical harm as might exist was created by unsupervised contact to the father, not by return to Australia.

Re S. (Abduction: Return into Care) [1999] 1 FLR 843 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKe 361]

It was argued that the allegations of sexual abuse by the mother's cohabitee were of such a nature as to activate the Article 13(1)(b) exception. This was rejected by the Court. In doing this the Court noted that the Swedish authorities were aware of the case and had taken steps to ensure that the child would be protected upon her return: she would be placed in an analysis home with her mother. If the mother did not agree to this, the child would be placed in care. The Court also noted that the mother had now separated from her cohabitee.

Supreme Court of Finland 1996:151, S96/2489 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/FI 360]

When considering whether the allegations of the father's sexual abuse of his daughter constituted a barrier to returning the children, the Court noted that one of the objectives of the Hague Child Abduction Convention was that the forum for the determination of custody issues was not to be changed at will and that the credibility of allegations as to the personal characteristics of the petitioner were most properly investigated in the spouses' common State of habitual residence. In addition, the Court noted that a grave risk of harm did not arise if the mother were to return with the children and saw to it that their living conditions were arranged in their best interests. Accordingly, the Court found that there was no barrier to the return of the children.

A.S. v. P.S. (Child Abduction) [1998] 2 IR 244 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/IE 389]

The Irish Supreme Court accepted that there was prima facie evidence of sexual abuse by the father and that the children should not be returned into his care. However, it found that the trial judge had erred in concluding that this amounted to a grave risk of harm in returning the children to England per se. In the light of the undertakings given by the father, there would be no grave risk in returning the children to live in the former matrimonial home in the sole care of their mother.

- Investigation to be undertaken in the State of refuge:

China - (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)
D. v. G. [2001] 1179 HKCU 1 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/HK 595]

The Court of Appeal criticised the fact that the return order had been made conditional on the acts of a third party (the Swiss Central Authority) over whom China's (Hong Kong SAR) Court had neither jurisdiction nor control. The Court ruled that unless and until the allegations could be discounted altogether or after investigation could be found to have no substance, it was almost inconceivable that the trial court's discretion could reasonably and responsibly be exercised to return the child to the environment in which the alleged abuse took place.

United States of America
Danaipour v. McLarey, 286 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2002) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 459]

The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that great care had to be exercised before returning a child where there existed credible evidence of the child having suffered sexual abuse. It further stated that a court should be particularly wary about using potentially unenforceable undertakings to try to protect a child in such situations.

Kufner v. Kufner, 519 F.3d 33 (1st Cir. 2008) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 971]

The District Court had appointed an independent expert in paediatrics, child abuse, child sexual abuse and child pornography, to assess whether the photographs of the sons constituted child pornography and whether the behaviour problems suffered by the children were indications of sexual abuse. The expert reported that there was no evidence to suggest that the father was a paedophile, that he was sexually aroused by children, or that the pictures were pornographic. The expert approved of the German investigations and stated that they were accurate assessments and that their conclusions were consistent with their reported observations. The expert determined that the symptoms that the boys displayed were consistent with the stress in their lives caused by the acrimonious custody dispute and recommended that the boys not undergo further sexual abuse evaluation because it would increase their already-dangerous stress levels.

- Return Refused:

United Kingdom - Scotland

Q., Petitioner [2001] SLT 243 [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/UKs 341]

The Court held that there was a possibility that the allegations of abuse were true. It was also possible that the child, if returned, could be allowed into the unsupervised company of the alleged abuser. The Court equally noted that a court in another Hague Convention country would be able to provide adequate protection. Consequently it was possible for a child to be returned where an allegation of sexual abuse had been made. However, on the facts, the Court ruled that in light of what had happened in France during the course of the various legal proceedings, the courts there might not be able or willing to provide adequate protection for the children. Consequently, the risk amounted to a grave risk that the return of the girl would expose her to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place her in an intolerable situation.

United States of America
Danaipour v. McLarey, 386 F.3d 289 (1st Cir. 2004) [INCADAT Reference: HC/E/USf 597]

Having found that sexual abuse had occurred, the Court of Appeals ruled that this rendered immaterial the father's arguments that the courts of Sweden could take ameliorative actions to prevent further harm once the children had been returned. The Court of Appeals held that in such circumstances, Article 13(1)(b) did not require separate consideration either of undertakings or of the steps which might be taken by the courts of the country of habitual residence.

(Author: Peter McEleavy, April 2013)

Nature and Strength of Objection

De L. v. Director-General, NSW Department of Community Services (1996) FLC 92-706 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 93].

The supreme Australian jurisdiction, the High Court, advocated a literal interpretation of the term ‘objection'.  However, this was subsequently reversed by a legislative amendment, see:

s.111B(1B) of the Family Law Act 1975 inserted by the Family Law Amendment Act 2000.

Article 13(2), as implemented into Australian law by reg. 16(3) of the Family Law (Child Abduction) Regulations 1989, now provides not only that the child must object to a return, but that the objection must show a strength of feeling beyond the mere expression of a preference or of ordinary wishes.

See for example:

Richards & Director-General, Department of Child Safety [2007] FamCA 65 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 904].

The issue as to whether a child must specifically object to the State of habitual residence has not been settled, see:

Re F. (Hague Convention: Child's Objections) [2006] FamCA 685 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/AU 864].

9Ob102/03w, Oberster Gerichtshof (Austrian Supreme Court), 8/10/2003 [INCADAT: cite HC/E/AT 549].

A mere preference for the State of refuge is not enough to amount to an objection.

N° de rôle: 02/7742/A, Tribunal de première instance de Bruxelles, 27/5/2003 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/BE 546].

A mere preference for the State of refuge is not enough to amount to an objection.

Crnkovich v. Hortensius, [2009] W.D.F.L. 337, 62 R.F.L. (6th) 351, 2008, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CA 1028].

To prove that a child objects, it must be shown that the child "displayed a strong sense of disagreement to returning to the jurisdiction of his habitual residence. He must be adamant in expressing his objection. The objection cannot be ascertained by simply weighing the pros and cons of the competing jurisdictions, such as in a best interests analysis. It must be something stronger than a mere expression of preference".

United Kingdom - England & Wales
In Re S. (A Minor) (Abduction: Custody Rights) [1993] Fam 242 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 87] the Court of Appeal held that the return to which a child objects must be an immediate return to the country from which it was wrongfully removed. There is nothing in the provisions of Article 13 to make it appropriate to consider whether the child objects to returning in any circumstances.

In Re M. (A Minor) (Child Abduction) [1994] 1 FLR 390 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 56] it was, however, accepted that an objection to life with the applicant parent may be distinguishable from an objection to life in the former home country.

In Re T. (Abduction: Child's Objections to Return) [2000] 2 FCR 159 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 270] Ward L.J. set down a series of questions to assist in determining whether it was appropriate to take a child's objections into account.

These questions where endorsed by the Court of Appeal in Re M. (A Child) (Abduction: Child's Objections to Return) [2007] EWCA Civ 260, [2007] 2 FLR 72 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 901].

For academic commentary see: P. McEleavy ‘Evaluating the Views of Abducted Children: Trends in Appellate Case Law' [2008] Child and Family Law Quarterly, pp. 230-254.

Objections based solely on a preference for life in France or life with the abducting parent have not been upheld, see:

CA Grenoble 29/03/2000 M. v. F. [INCADAT cite: HC/E/FR 274];

TGI Niort 09/01/1995, Procureur de la République c. Y. [INCADAT cite: HC/E/FR 63].

United Kingdom - Scotland
In Urness v. Minto 1994 SC 249 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 79] a broad interpretation was adopted, with the Inner House accepting that a strong preference for remaining with the abducting parent and for life in Scotland implicitly meant an objection to returning to the United States of America.

In W. v. W. 2004 S.C. 63 IH (1 Div) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 805] the Inner House, which accepted the Re T. [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 270] gateway test, held that objections relating to welfare matters were only to be dealt with by the authorities in the child's State of habitual residence.

In the subsequent first instance case: M. Petitioner 2005 S.L.T. 2 OH [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 804], Lady Smith noted the division in appellate case law and decided to follow the earlier line of authority as exemplified in Urness v. Minto.  She explicitly rejected the Re T. gateway tests.

The judge recorded in her judgment that there would have been an attempt to challenge the Inner House judgment in W. v. W. before the House of Lords but the case had been resolved amicably.

More recently a stricter approach to the objections has been followed, see:  C. v. C. [2008] CSOH 42, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 962]; upheld on appeal: C v. C. [2008] CSIH 34, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 996].

The highest Swiss court has stressed the importance of children being able to distinguish between issues relating to custody and issues relating to return, see:

5P.1/2005 /bnm, Bundesgericht II. Zivilabteilung (Tribunal Fédéral, 2ème Chambre Civile),[INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 795];

5P.3/2007 /bnm; Bundesgericht, II. Zivilabteilung (Tribunal Fédéral, 2ème Chambre Civile),[INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 894].

A mere preference for life in the State of refuge, even if reasoned, will not satisfy the terms of Article 13(2):

5A.582/2007 Bundesgericht, II. Zivilabteilung (Tribunal Fédéral, 2ème Chambre Civile), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 986].

For general academic commentary see: R. Schuz ‘Protection or Autonomy -The Child Abduction Experience' in  Y. Ronen et al. (eds), The Case for the Child- Towards the Construction of a New Agenda,  271-310 (Intersentia,  2008).