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Steph’s Hague Journey

In Autumn 2018 I moved back home to the UK from Australia with my two children. Things had gone badly wrong in Australia after my husband had had an affair. I had been left with nothing: no money, no job, no home. Within months, the father of the children made an application to The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.
I contacted GlobalARRK before Xmas to get some additional support because the whole process was extremely stressful, you need plenty of support.
GlobalARRK offered support, information, the opportunity to speak to others in a similar situation and face to face support with Becka, a GlobalARRK volunteer, on video call.

I found the volunteers very understanding not pushy or over bearing and given that you feel so utterly lost during these sorts of proceedings to just have someone to talk to or cry with was a great help.

I can’t remember the name of the Judge but he was extremely good had read all the paperwork and it was clear he had read everything as he could comment on things within the proceedings from memory. Again, there is no guarantee about the Judge that is allocated I understand there are only 9 high court judges who specialise in these applications here in the UK.
When you provide your statement in response to the application which I wished to defend that you must be succinct. The Judge wants to know why you wish to defend the proceedings.
In my case initially I relied on three defences, consent/acquiescence by my husband, the children’s objections and refusal to return and psychological risk/grave harm.
I was advised to withdraw my defence based on consent because this must be unequivocal and valid on the date that you leave the country and although the Judge found that there had been consent at some point and clearly there had been a number of discussions about my return to the UK with the children I was very wise to withdraw that defence as it would not have stood up. Essentially, I had to accept that I had done the wrong thing and that I did not have consent – which I believe definitely went in my favour.
My two defences were supported by a CAFCASS Officers report which clearly indicated objections by the children that were not influenced by me at all and a psychological report on myself that determined that I was suffering severe depression and anxiety and I was also psychologically damaged by the events that had led to us leaving Australia.
My report was also supported by statements from my parents who were present in Australia when the whole problem started so they were direct witnesses, a statement from my employer in Australia supporting the suffering I had undergone and medical records from counsellors and my GP in Australia and my GP here including a report from my GP here that fully supported the findings in the Psychologists report.
The fact that my husband had not provided any evidence to show that he could financially support me and the children upon our return or made any offer of financial support given that the house is on the market and I have no job or vehicle or anything back in Australia I think was also a factor. In addition, he was our only family out there and it would have been an intolerable situation to put me and the children in if we were to be returned, even on a summary basis.
I also understand that relocation proceedings in Australia take a minimum of 12 to 18 months to get through court which would also have placed me in an intolerable situation.
I know these cases are extremely difficult to fight and win but in my case it was clear that the children were of an age to give a clear response and reasoning for their objections which was not in any way influenced by me. In addition, my own mental health was suffering to such an extent that without the support of our family and friends here in the UK – which is after all our home and in which we are citizens – that to suggest the children should return with or without me would be detrimental to us all.
I really hope that my case does bring some comfort to others going through a similar situation though each case is clearly based on its merits and whether the defences meet the tests that are set extremely highly. I certainly wouldn’t wish this type of trauma on anyone it has been a huge milestone in my life, and I can only hope that in the future myself and the children can be happy again.

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