Two British children who were unilaterally removed from their mother by their father must be returned to their new home in Canada. The High Court ruled that the children had acquired ‘habitual residence’ in North America and were no longer habitually resident in the UK at the time the father removed them.

They were both British nationals, having been born while the mother and father were still together and before they had relocated to Canada. The family had their property shipped to Canada and, after moving there, the mother began working and the father attempted to set up a business. However, the parents’ relationship ended and it was agreed that day-to-day care of the children would continue to be shared between the mother and father.

After saying he was taking the children on a trip to a lake, the father returned to the UK and sent a message to the mother saying they would stay with him until his solicitor instructed him otherwise. The mother applied to the High Court Family Division for summary return of the children. She said that their joint intention had been to permanently relocate to Canada and the children were by then settled in their home abroad

Upholding the mother’s application, Mrs Justice Pauffley said that, on the evidence, it was ‘indisputable’ that the children had acquired habitual residence in Canada. The parents had spent several years applying for residency in Canada; their schooling in the UK had been wound up, with one of the children enrolled in and attending a Canadian school and the younger going to a nursery.

“There really can be no other conclusion but that these two children were indeed habitually resident in Canada at the time of their removal to this country. On any objective analysis of what has happened in the life of this family, taken together with the supportive documentary evidence provided by the mother, any other result would be simply perverse,” the judge concluded.