A v A and another (Children) (Children: Habitual Residence) (Reunite International Child Abduction Centre intervening): SC 9 Sep 2013

Acquisition of Habitual Residence

Habitual residence can in principle be lost and another habitual residence acquired on the same day.
Held: The provisions giving the courts of a member state jurisdiction also apply where there is an alternative jurisdiction in a non-member state such as the United States. The Regulation also deals with how child abduction cases are to be dealt with as between member states of the European Union, and the various international conventions dealing with children, including this one, formed part of the legislative history of the Regulation.
When determining the ‘habitual residence’ of a child for the purpose of the Brussels II Regulation revised and the Hague Convention, the Shah test should not be followed, the search being rather for the place which reflects ‘some degree of integration by the child into the social and family environment’, the intentions of the parents being no more than one relevant factor; in the majority’s view (Lord Hughes disagreeing on this point) physical presence was a necessary element.
The Court summarised the applicable law: ‘i) All are agreed that habitual residence is a question of fact and not a legal concept such as domicile. There is no legal rule akin to that whereby a child automatically takes the domicile of his parents.
ii) It was the purpose of the 1986 Act to adopt a concept which was the same as that adopted in the Hague and European Conventions. The Regulation must also be interpreted consistently with those Conventions.
iii) The test adopted by the European Court is ‘the place which reflects some degree of integration by the child in a social and family environment’ in the country concerned. This depends upon numerous factors, including the reasons for the family’s stay in the country in question.
iv) It is now unlikely that that test would produce any different results from that hitherto adopted in the English courts under the 1986 Act and the Hague Child Abduction Convention.
v) In my view, the test adopted by the European Court is preferable to that earlier adopted by the English courts, being focussed on the situation of the child, with the purposes and intentions of the parents being merely one of the relevant factors. The test derived from R v Barnet London Borough Council, ex p Shah should be abandoned when deciding the habitual residence of a child.
vi) The social and family environment of an infant or young child is shared with those (whether parents or others) upon whom he is dependent. Hence it is necessary to assess the integration of that person or persons in the social and family environment of the country concerned.
vii) The essentially factual and individual nature of the inquiry should not be glossed with legal concepts which would produce a different result from that which the factual inquiry would produce.
viii) As the Advocate General pointed out in para AG45 and the court confirmed in para 43 of Proceedings brought by A, it is possible that a child may have no country of habitual residence at a particular point in time.’


Lady Hale, Deputy President, Lord Wilson, Lord Reed, Lord Hughes, Lord Toulson


[2013] UKSC 60, [2014] 1 AC 1, [2013] WLR(D) 345, [2013] 3 FCR 559, [2013] 3 WLR 761, [2013] Fam Law 1528, [2014] 1 All ER 827, [2014] 1 FLR 111, UKSC 2013/0106


Bailii, Bailii Summary, SC, SC Summary, WLRD


Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003


England and Wales


Appeal fromIn re A (Children) CA 31-Jan-2013
. .
CitedB v H (Habitual Residence: Wardship) FD 2002
A mother of three children, who was pregnant with her fourth child, accompanied the father on a visit to Bangladesh. After their arrival the father announced his intention to remain there and refused to hand over the passports of the mother and . .
CitedOwusu v Jackson, Mammee Bay Resorts Limited etc CA 19-Jun-2002
Defendants appealed against an order refusing an order to restrain service of the proceedings on certain defendants outwith the jurisdiction. The claimant was seriously injured holidaying at a resort managed by the several defendants in Jamaica in . .
CitedOwusu v Jackson ECJ 1-Mar-2005
ECJ Brussels Convention – Territorial scope of the Brussels Convention – Article 2 – Jurisdiction – Accident which occurred in a non – Contracting State – Personal injury – Action brought in a Contracting State . .
CitedIn Re I (A Child) SC 1-Dec-2009
The child had been born in Britain to British citizen parents from Pakistan and India. There had been care proceedings, but later and with the court’s consent the father took him to Pakistan undertaking to return him, but then failed to do so. . .
CitedJKN v JCN (Divorce: Forum) FD 19-Apr-2010
Ms Theis QC decided that proceedings were only ‘governed’ by BIIR if they fell within article 19 of BIIR . .
CitedAB v CB FD 10-Oct-2012
Whether English divorce proceedings instituted here by the wife AB should be stayed to enable Indian proceedings for divorce instituted there earlier by CB.
Held: Bodey J stayed the wife’s English petition on the ground that India was the more . .
CitedRegina v Barnet London Borough Council, Ex parte Shah HL 16-Dec-1982
The five applicants had lived in the UK for at least three years while attending school or college. All five were subject to immigration control, four had entered as students with limited leave to remain for the duration of their studies, and the . .
CitedIn re J (a Minor) (Abduction: Custody rights) HL 1-Jul-1990
On 21 March 1990 the mother removed the child, aged two, from Australia, where he had been habitually resident, to England with the intention of permanently residing here. She did so without the knowledge of the father who also resided in Australia . .
CitedIn Re M (A Minor) (Habitual Residence) CA 3-Jan-1996
An habitual residence dispute is a dispute on a matter of fact not of law. It cannot be settled by the choice of the parents. A child cannot acquire habitual residence in a country without actually being physically present in that country. . .
CitedAl Habtoor v Fotheringham CA 15-Feb-2001
There is no jurisdiction in wardship over a child not habitually resident in England. A child born in England of and English mother and Dubai father had gone to live with his mother in Dubai at the invitation of the father, but had there retained . .
CitedRe R (Abduction: Habitual Residence) 2004
. .
CitedIn re P-J (Children) (Abduction: Consent) FD 2009
. .
CitedA (Area of Freedom, Security and Justice) ECJ 2-Apr-2009
ECJ Judicial co-operation in civil matters – Jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility – Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 . .
CitedIn re P-J (Children) (Abduction: Consent) CA 23-Jun-2009
An application was made under the 1985 Act. The mother answered by saying that the removal of the child had been approved by the father.
Held: The mother’s appeal failed. The father had clearly indicated that he withdrew his consent before the . .
CitedIn re H-K (Children) CA 10-Oct-2011
. .
CitedDL v EL (Hague Abduction Convention: effect of reversal of return order on appeal) FD 17-Jan-2013
F sought the return of his son K to the US. K had been brought here by M after a court order in the US,but the father subsequently appealed sucessfully, obtaining an order for K’s return. M said that the UK court had originally and correctly found K . .
CitedDL v EL CA 16-Jul-2013
M had returned to the UK with her child on the strength of a US court order. F appealed successfully and now sought an order from the UK court for the return of the child.
Held: F’s appeal against refusal of an order failed. Acting under the . .
CitedIn re S (Minors) (Child Abduction: Wrongful Retention) FD 1993
The parents of S were Israeli citizens living in Israel. They had equal parental rights and responsibilities under Israeli law. They brought their two children to England intending to reside here for one year and then return to Israel. The father . .
Citedin Re M (Abduction: Habitual Residence) CA 1996
The court accepted a proposition that one parent with parental responsibility could not achieve a change in the child’s habitual residence without the consent of the other parent with parental responsibility. . .
CitedIn re S (A Child: Abduction) CA 27-Nov-2002
M’s appeal from refusal of order for return of a child under the Hague Convention. . .
CitedIn Re T (A Child: Article 15 of B2R) ((Care Proceedings: Request to Assume Jurisdiction) FD 13-Mar-2013
A pregnant 17 year old Slovakian girl ran away from a children’s home in Slovakia and gave birth to the baby in the UK.
Held: Although the court decided to transfer the case to Slovakia under article 15, Mostyn J said: ‘It is not disputed that . .
CitedA (Area of Freedom, Security And Justice) ECJ 29-Jan-2009
ECJ Area of Freedom, Security And Justice – Opinion – Judicial cooperation in civil matters – Jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and matters of parental . .
CitedMercredi v Richard Chaffe (Area of Freedom, Security And Justice) ECJ 22-Dec-2010
ECJ Judicial cooperation in civil matters – Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 – Matrimonial matters and parental responsibility – Child whose parents are not married – Concept of ‘habitual residence’ of an infant – . .
CitedHope v Hope 5-Aug-1854
A child owed allegiance to the Crown and in return the Crown had a protective or parens patriae jurisdiction over the child wherever he was. Lord Cranworth LC explained this: ‘The jurisdiction of this Court, which is entrusted to the holder of the . .
CitedIn re P (GE) (An infant) CA 1965
A stateless child was taken by his father away from the mother in England to Israel.
Held: The wardship jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery extended to any child ‘ordinarily resident’ in this country. An infant of British nationality whether . .
Citedin Re B; RB v FB and MA (Forced Marriage: Wardship: Jurisdiction) FD 15-Apr-2008
The court exercised the wardship jurisdiction in respect of a 15 year old girl born and brought up in Pakistan, who had never been here but did have dual Pakistani and British nationality. She had gone to the High Commission in Islamabad asking to . .
CitedIn re N (A Child) (Abduction: Appeal) CA 11-Jul-2012
M appealed against refusal of an order dismissing her application for the return of her daughter. The main issue related to T’s habitual residence and a claim that the jurisdiction of the court in England and Wales could be founded upon T being . .
CitedC v C (Minor:Abduction: Rights of Custody Abroad) CA 1989
The English mother married the Australian father in Australia and bore their child their. After divorce both parents had custody with no right to remove the child. The mother brought the child to England without the father’s consent.
Held: The . .
CitedSH v HH (Jurisdiction to Grant Wardship) CA 8-Jul-2011
The British father, of Afghan origin, travelled back to Afghanistan to marry. His wife, the mother, planned to come to England but had never left Afghanistan when their first child was born. Her subsequent journey (alone) to England may have . .
CitedMozes v Mozes 9-Jan-2001
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit . .

Cited by:

CitedJO v GO and Others; re PO; Re O (Court of Protection: Jurisdiction) CoP 13-Dec-2013
Jurisdiction of the Court of Protection
PO, a lady in her late eighties lacked capacity to decide her own care. She had been habitually resident in Hertfordshire. Her daughters now challenged their brother who had moved her to a care home in Scotland when he himself moved there. An . .
CitedRe KL (A Child) SC 4-Dec-2013
How should the courts of this country react when a child is brought here pursuant to an order made abroad in proceedings under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction which is later over-turned on appeal? K was a . .
CitedAR v RN (Scotland) SC 22-May-2015
The court was asked whether it should order the return to France of two little girls who have been living with their mother in Scotland since July 2013. The issue arose under article 3 of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of . .
CitedCornwall Council, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Health and Somerset County Council SC 8-Jul-2015
PH had severe physical and learning disabilities and was without speech, lacking capacity to decide for himself where to live. Since the age of four he received accommodation and support at public expense. Until his majority in December 2004, he was . .
CitedM (Children : Habitual Residence : 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention) CA 25-Aug-2020
F sought the return of his children to Germany. They had lived there, but brought to the UK by M with F’s consent. She stayed for a year, and the court now considered where was their habitual residence. The judge considered that they had not lost . .
CitedMittal v Mittal CA 18-Oct-2013
The parties were born and lived in India and were Hindu. They came to the UK but after separation, returned to India, leaving no assets here. H began divorce proceedings in India, but W then issued a petition here. She now appealed against on order . .
Appeal fromVedanta Resources Plc and Another v Lungowe and Others SC 10-Apr-2019
The claimants alleged negligence causing them personal injury and other losses arising from pollution from mining operations of the defendants in Zambia. The company denied jurisdiction. In the Court of Appeal the defendants’ appeals were dismissed. . .
CitedIn re NY (A Child) (Reunite International and others intervening) SC 30-Oct-2019
The father had applied for a summary order requiring the return of the daughter to Israel. The Court was asked to consider whether the Court of Appeal, having determined that such an order could not be granted under the Hague Convention on the Civil . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Children, European, International

Leading Case

Updated: 06 May 2022; Ref: scu.515109