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International Family Law

The leading authority on international family law

25 MAY 2012

The habitual residence of children in child abduction cases

Richard Harrison QC & Jennifer Perrins

1 King's Bench Walk, Temple, London EC4Y 7DB
16 April 2012

‘the best law remains simple law'

Wilson LJ in Re P-J (Abduction: Habitual Residence: Consent)

Introduction

The concept of habitual residence lies at the heart of international family law. Practitioners involved in children disputes with issues of jurisdiction need first to consider where the child concerned is habitually resident; in cases involving the abduction of a child they need to consider where the child was habitually resident before the abduction took place.

One might think that it ought to be reasonably straightforward for a parent who becomes embroiled in international litigation to work out which country has jurisdiction to determine the dispute. Indeed most children, let alone their parents, would be able to confidently answer the question ‘where do you live?' This, however, is a topic which has spawned dozens of authorities, leaving much for lawyers to argue about. In recent years, the subject has become further complicated by judgments of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which appear to conflict with the traditional English approach to the subject.

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