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10 DEC 2012

ABDUCTION: Re J (A Child: Habitual Residence) [2012] EWHC 3364 (Fam)

(Family Division, Peter Jackson J, 3 December 2012)

The 7-year-old girl had been cared for primarily by the maternal grandparents in the UK when her mother returned to the USA, where she had been born. For the past 6 years the mother had no involvement with her child aside from recent video contact. A residence order in favour of the grandmother remained in place.

Following a paternity test the father and the paternal grandmother had significant involvement in the child's life and had regular contact.

During a weekend when the father was due to have contact with the child the maternal grandmother took the child and flew to the USA to see the mother without forewarning the father. The child remained with her mother and the maternal grandmother notified the child's school in the UK that she would not be returning. The father issued proceedings, was granted a parental responsibility order and an order for the child's return. The mother and maternal grandmother contested the jurisdiction of the English court claiming the child's place of habitual residence was not the USA

The reality of the child's situation was that she had spent the vast majority of her life being habitually resident in the UK and that status was not altered by a contrived absence of 13 days. Her roots in the UK were deep and her habitual residence did not change as a result of a legally insecure removal.

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