Judge orders that abducted boy should be returned to mother

The High Court has ordered that an 11-year-old boy who was abducted by his father should be returned to his mother.

The case involved a couple who had married in 2009. The mother was Italian and the father was part Italian with dual nationality. The family lived in Italy in a house opposite the home of the father's family.

In 2014, the couple divorced. In 2017, an Italian court granted custody of the son to both parents, although his physical placement was with his father. Between January 2018 and October 2019, the father lived in England, but the son continued to live in Italy in the paternal family home.

The mother continued to live in the house opposite and the son spent some of his time with her. In the middle of October 2019, he was removed by the father to England without the mother's knowledge or consent.

The mother reported the matter to the police. Six months later she initiated proceedings under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980. Since being in England, the son had not seen his mother and indirect contact with her had been limited. He had been attending school.

The father argued that the son’s removal from Italy was not wrongful. He argued that such rights as were held by the mother under Italian law did not amount to rights of custody under the Convention.

He also argued that the mother was not actually exercising any rights of custody she might have had at the time.

The High Court found in favour of the mother.

It held that the evidence provided by the Italian Central Authority clearly established that the mother had rights of custody. As a result of their removal, the mother had been prevented from having regular contact with her son and from taking part in his upbringing and education.

Accordingly, the mother's rights under Italian law amounted to rights of custody for the purposes of the Convention, and the removal of the son was in breach of those rights.

The court therefore had to order the son’s return to Italy.

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