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15 MAY 2014

In the Matter of K (A Child) (Northern Ireland) [2014] UKSC 29

(Supreme Court, Lady Hale, Lords Kerr, Clarke, Wilson and Hughes, 15 May 2014)

Abduction – Grandmother’s rights of custody – Removal of child from Lithuania by mother – Return order from Northern Ireland

Please see attached PDF file below for the full judgment.

The Supreme Court allowed the grandmother’s appeal by a majority, finding that she had rights of custody of the child and, therefore, the mother’s removal of the child from Lithuania was wrongful and a return order had to be made.

The 9-year-old Lithuanian child had been raised by his maternal grandparents in Lithuania until 2012. The father separated from the mother before the child was born and played no part in his life. The mother moved to Northern Ireland after she authorised the maternal grandmother to seek medical assistance for the child and executed a notarised consent for her to deal with all institutions in relation to the child on her behalf. A court order was made placing the child in the temporary care of the maternal grandmother.

In 2012 the mother returned to Lithuania and sought to take the child into her own care and she applied to withdraw the notarised consents. She commenced weekly contact with the child but when she was advised that legal proceedings to obtain custody would be costly and protracted she seized the child while he was walking home from school with the maternal grandmother. They travelled to Northern Ireland immediately. The grandparents issued an originating summons in Northern Ireland seeking a declaration that the child was been wrongfully retained in breach of their rights of custody. The application was refused and that decision was upheld in the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal. They now appealed to the Supreme Court.

The appeal was allowed by a majority (Lord Wilson dissenting). The Justices found that the grandmother did enjoy rights of custody and that the removal from Lithuania was wrongful. The court ordered that the child should be returned to Lithuania forthwith. The majority agreed that the English courts should continue to recognise inchoate rights of custody under the Hague Convention and BIIR. In this case the Children’s Rights Division was supervising the situation on the basis that the child remained living with his grandparents while having contact with the mother, and removing the child from the country without the grandmother’s consent was in breach of her rights of custody. The court was bound to make a return order under the Convention.

Lord Wilson dissented on the basis that the grandmother’s rights of custody were terminated upon the mother’s return to Lithuania.

The fully referenced, judicially approved judgment and headnote will appear in a forthcoming issue of Family Law Reports. A detailed summary and analysis of the case will appear in Family Law. __________________________________________________________________

[2014] UKSC 29


In the Matter of K (A child) (Northern Ireland)


Lady Hale, Deputy President
Lord Kerr
Lord Clarke
Lord Wilson
Lord Hughes


15 May 2014

Heard on 8 April 2014

Appellants (Grandparents)

1st Respondent (Mother)

Denise McBride QC and Mary Connolly

Henry Toner QC and Jill Lindsay BL

(Instructed by Cleaver Fulton Rankin Ltd)

(Instructed by X Solicitors)

Please see attached PDF file for full judgment

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