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22 FEB 2008

ABDUCTION: Re F (Abduction) [2008] EWHC 272 (Fam)

(Family Division; Sir Mark Potter P; 22 February 2008)

The mother had removed the children from Poland without informing the father. The father had been granted restricted parental authority by the Polish courts, involving only vital problems in connection with upbringing, education and medical treatment. The father did not take any action to have the children, now aged 13 and 11, returned to Poland until over 11 months after the removal.

A long-term change in the children's place of residence from Poland to England, with its obvious serious implications for their upbringing and education, as well as for the father's rights of access, plainly constituted a 'vital problem' in connection with both the upbringing and education of the children, requiring co-decision; this created a right of veto in the father in the absence of agreement. The removal had therefore been wrongful, being in breach of the father's rights of custody. Acquiescence on the father's part had not been established; mere inaction did not of itself amount to acquiescence. However, the court's discretion not to return the children would be exercised on the basis of the children's objections; to return the children would be to uproot them, contrary to their wishes and objections, from a situation of happiness, security and educational progress over the last 14 months and to return them to a place and general situation in which it was clear they had felt unhappy, emotionally disturbed and unable properly to relate to their peers.

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