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not want to know”. 42 Some returning parents complained that, once the Hague machine was set in motion, “people stopped listening”. These parents say that they knew what would happen on return but they were not believed and what they said was not taken into account by the returning Court. These parents state that they knew the system in the home State and tried to inform the returning Court of what would happen, including the lack of respect which would be paid to the undertakings given by the left-behind parent, but felt that they were not heard in the returning Court’s attempts to ensure comity.

One issue which concerned many interviewed parents was the lack of provision for post-return contact. The idealised notion of contact proceedings taking place in the home State does not reflect the reality for many parents who have identified the very real possibility of there being no further proceedings once the child has been returned. This may occur where there are severe difficulties in obtaining legal aid43 and where the parent seeking contact has been depleted, both emotionally and financially, through the events which have occurred thus far. One such parent described this as “abduction by the authorities” as, having returned the child, there was then no effective mechanism which provided for post-return contact in such cases, especially where the other parent was prepared to use all legal tactics to delay the case and where the child was now living on a different continent. Delays, often lengthy and unexplained, were experienced by some of those interviewed in bringing domestic contact

42 The impact of the Revised Brussels 11 Regulation provides scope for detailed comity in the making of return orders as well as for judicial co-operation in identifying the court in the home jurisdiction which will be dealing with the case on return. As far as Europe is concerned, therefore, the concerns about undertakings should be capable of being dealt with in a European case (save for Denmark) because the Revised Brussels 11 Regulation is likely to assist in formalising and rendering more easily enforceable conditions attached to a return in that the court of the requested State can rely on the provisions of the revised regulation and, if need be, to look to something more substantial than undertakings and appropriate inter-court co-operation. The return order is not, however, intended to have long lasting effect and there is an argument that a provision designed to be of benefit to the left- behind parent, as in this case, should not have been part of the return order. If the terms of the return order are not complied with once in the State of habitual residence, this is a matter for the domestic courts and the costs of enforcement continue to be a matter for concern where legal aid is not easily available.

43 This may apply to a non-custodial abducting parent seeking contact to a child returned to another jurisdiction or to an abducting primary carer parent who wishes to formalise custody arrangements on return to the requesting State.


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