Hague convention solicitor wins Spanish custody battle

The English lawyer who helped overturn the Hague Convention to allow an English mother to gain early custody of her Spanish-born son during separation proceedings has now secured permanent custody for her.

Last year Christopher Lee, who runs a small practice in Barcelona, led a Spanish legal team which overturned a Hague Convention Order made by the UK High Court requiring the mother to return with her son to Barcelona.

Lee claimed it was the first time such an order had been overturned at the interim orders stage. The Hague Convention Order is normally in force throughout the separation proceedings.

Now the Spanish courts have upheld the interim orders unchanged, thereby allowing the mother to take custody of her child.

Legal proceedings began when the Norfolk-born mother, who had been married to her Spanish husband for more than seven years, returned to England in December 1994 with her two-year-old son. She was initially ordered to return her son to Barcelona on arrival in the UK.

Lee said the decision of the Spanish court has important ramifications for the Hague Convention Order: “This case shows that all is not lost for a parent who breaches the Convention. In the end, the Spanish court backed the mother’s original decision to live with her son in the UK.”

In addition to his work on this custody case, Lee has been working on a number of international child abduction cases this year.

Lee explained that such cases were on the increase. “Immediately after the summer and Christmas holidays are peak times for abductions, because that is when separated parents realise they cannot bear to return their child to their former partner,” he said.