Court Refuses to Order Girl's Return to Lithuania

When making decisions about where and with whom a child should live, the courts will prioritise the welfare of the child and will take the child's own views into consideration where appropriate. In a recent case, the High Court rejected a father's application for an order for his daughter to return to live with him in Lithuania.

The girl's mother and father had been in a relationship until 2019. She had lived in Lithuania until September 2021, when her mother sent her to stay with her maternal grandmother in England without her father's knowledge. The mother herself moved to England later that year.

The father issued proceedings in the UK, seeking an order for the girl's return to Lithuania under the Hague Convention 1980. The proceedings were stayed while litigation was ongoing in the Lithuanian courts, and by the time the case was heard, the girl was nearly 13 and had been in England for over two and a half years.

The mother contested the application on the grounds that the girl objected to returning to Lithuania and that her return would place her in an 'intolerable situation' under Article 13 of the Convention. The father argued that the girl's views were not authentically her own: she had a sense of loyalty to her maternal family and was aware that they wished her to remain in England. He also argued that they amounted to a wish or preference, rather than an actual objection.

The Court heard evidence that the girl had formed friendships here and would be angry with her father if he forced her to return to Lithuania. The Court was satisfied that she objected to returning. Given her age and maturity, her views should be taken into account.

Noting that her mother would accompany her if she returned to Lithuania, the Court found that her situation if she returned would be difficult and unwelcome, but could not properly be described as intolerable. Taking all the circumstances into account, however, the Court declined to make the return order sought by the father.