The Family Court has ordered that two children who were wrongfully removed from Italy by their mother must be returned to their father in Rome.
The father and mother had married in 1998 and their eldest son was born in England in 2008. The family moved to Italy in 2011 and their youngest son was born in Rome in 2012.
The marriage broke down in 2017 and judicial separation proceedings commenced. The civil court in Rome gave an interim judgment refusing the mother’s application to relocate to England and made an order for joint custody.
Final judgment was given in Rome in 2020 for joint custody though there was evidence of the strong wish of the eldest child to remain with the father.
While the father’s appeal was pending, the mother abducted the children and brought them to England. The appeal court in Rome ordered the immediate and exclusive custody of both children to the father.
The mother opposed the father’s application for the children’s return under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. She claimed there would be a grave risk to the children of exposure to physical or psychological harm or being placed in an intolerable situation by being separated from her. She also relied on the children’s objections to being returned to Rome.
The Family Court in England found in favour of the father. It held that at the time of removal the children were habitually resident in Italy and their removal was in breach of the father’s rights of custody.
The mother had not proved the facts required by the Hague Convention and had not demonstrated a grave risk. The children’s views were considered, but their evidence showed that they had been subjected to indoctrination and manipulation.
If the court refused the father’s application, it would make a mockery of the object of the Convention to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to another country. The Rome judgment carefully appraised the children’s best interests and was not obtained on a false basis.
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