Anna’s story

  • Anna is aged eight and lives with her mum.
  • Anna’s parents are divorced and although Anna does not see her dad every day, she stays with him every second weekend.
  • A few weeks ago, Anna’s mum, who is Spanish, took her to Spain to stay with Anna’s grandmother.
Anna's Story Finding Home Liverpool
  • After a few weeks of being in Spain, Anna’s mum phoned Anna’s dad to tell him that they had decided to stay in Spain to live near their Spanish family.
  • Anna’s mum has found a school for Anna and feels she will be very happy there, but Anna’s dad wants Anna to return to England to live with him.
  • Anna starts at a new primary school in Spain and although she misses her friends in England, she likes it there.
  • Anna’s dad has asked the court to help him solve the disagreement.
  • The court would like to know what Anna thinks about returning to England.
  • Anna is asked to share her views with a lady who helps the courts hear from children.
  • Anna tells the lady she misses her dad, but she thinks that she would like to stay in Spain with her mum and grandmother and to see her dad in the school holidays.
  • Anna is worried that she may change her mind after a while and is worried about upsetting her dad.

A short summary of what the law says:

  • If her mum keeps Anna in Spain without her dad agreeing to it or without a judge’s permission this is ‘parental abduction’ and is against the law.
  • The judge will listen to what Anna has to say but will also think about lots of other things and decide what is best for her.

This is a complicated area of law so for a more detailed summary of what the law says, click on each of the questions below

If you are closely involved with both parents (so that both parents have what we call ‘a right of custody’ although in England & Wales this is now referred to as child arrangements) the law says that one parent should not move you to another country without the permission of your other parent, or a judge. When children are taken to another country without the other parent agreeing or without the court’s permission, the law calls this ‘parental abduction’ because there has been what we call a wrongful removal. The law says that it is also parental abduction if the other parent agrees to the child going to another country, but the child is not returned at the end of that trip, like in Anna’s case. We call this a wrongful retention.

It is hoped that as a family you can all agree where you will live. When you and your parents cannot agree, someone called a mediator might help your family decide together. If your parents still cannot agree, a judge will have to decide. The 1980 Hague Convention (which we call ‘the Convention’) works between the countries which are part of the Convention. The Convention aims for children to return to the country where you lived before (we call this the state of habitual residence), so the courts there can decide where you should live. The courts in the country where you usually live can get information about your family life more easily than courts in another country and so can better decide what is best for you when your parents cannot agree.

Although the Convention encourages children to be returned, there are some important situations in which the judge can decide that you do not have to return to the country where you lived before (we call these the ‘exceptions to return’ which. you can find out more about here)

For a detailed description of what ‘exceptions to return’ means please click here

Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (which is called the UNCRC) sets out that children have the right to have their views heard on matters affecting them. In some countries, the courts want to hear the views of children in every case under the Convention. In other countries, the courts will only hear from children who do not want to be returned to the country they lived in before. But remember that you have the right to ask to be heard.

Each country has different rules about how and when children can give their views to the judge. In some countries, children as young as age six are heard by the court. While in other countries only older children are asked for their views. It may seem unfair that different rules are used, but this is because the Convention works across more than 100 countries and every country does things slightly differently. You should ask the adults involved in your case to see what the rules are in your case.

Each country has different practices on how to hear from children. The three methods most used are:

  • Judges speaking directly with the child
  • Other professionals asked by the court to speak to the child and then to tell the court what the child said
  • Children having their own representative to let the court know what they want to happen (sometimes called a lawyer, an advocate or a guardian).

In some countries, the child’s views are heard using one, two or all three of these methods.

The person you meet will be friendly and has usually spoken with many children in a similar situation. She or he will help explain why they have been asked to meet you. They will answer any questions you have and will ask you for your views. Once the meeting is over, they will provide a report for the court which sets out what your views are on returning to the country where you lived before.

The Children’s Rights Committee is a group of experts from around the world that advises countries on how to make sure children can enjoy their rights under the UNCRC. The Committee says that children should not feel they have to make a choice. Just tell the person who asks to hear your views if you prefer not to choose where to live and would rather the adults decide.

You can share your views on what you would like to happen, but do not have to go to court. More and more cases have been carried out online because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In some countries you may be invited to the courtroom or to go to an online meeting, but if you do not want to do either of these, tell the person who asks your views.

There is a difference between the judge ‘hearing’ your views, and your views being ‘acted on.’ The judge is the person that will decide whether you stay in the new country or return to the country where you lived before.

To help the judge decide, the judge will want to know that the views are your own and that you fully understand how your choice could affect your future.

Even if the judge accepts that you do not want to return and that you fully understand the outcome of your decision, the judge must balance your views against other important factors including what is believed to be in your best interests. The judge will consider all these, and other, factors alongside your views and decide if you will return to where you lived before or stay in the new country.

Usually, when you tell the court your views, these are included in a report that is shared with all the people involved in the case, but you should check this with the person you meet when you share your views.