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to me”, and the Hague hearing, at which the return was ordered, as feeling “like a guillotine”. Many described the impact on their health suffered at the time of the return, with the accompanying loss of weight, stress and the need for medical interventions.

Some of these abducting parents were subsequently able to obtain leave to remove from the home jurisdiction and, although grateful to be able to do lawfully what they had attempted to do unlawfully, they felt bemused at what they saw as the waste of time, funds and emotion in the fruitless legal exercise which, in the end, brought about the same result. Many times these parents asked, “what was the point, and where is the best interests of the child in all this”? Where the abducting parent has unsuccessfully sought leave to remove from the home jurisdiction, they speak of long-term depression and the feeling of impotence in their lives, where their freedom of movement has been (in their view) restricted and where they have lived unstable lives with their children. One such parent asked why this had happened when all the other parent had actually wanted was contact with her and had been able to achieve that through the mechanism of the Hague Convention.

There can be few greater effects of abduction than the loss of custody of the child(ren) concerned where, in addition to the physical and emotional loss suffered by that parent, there is also the practical difficulty experienced, particularly for a mother, who would usually be expected to have her children with her, in having to explain her childless living situation to other people. One such mother has spoken of being judged by other people on this basis because of the disparity between the perception of a mother’s and a father’s absence from a child’s life, and being treated as “guilty until proven innocent” in this regard. She also described how she had to find a completely new persona for herself as a part-time mother who lived apart from her children. Another such mother described the loss of her child in this way as being “like death but without the ability to grieve as in death”.

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