Pro Bono Story

Abused mother accused of child abduction wins custody battle: Ava’s story

Ava's story

After Ava* moved abroad with her husband and young daughter, her husband became financially and psychologically controlling and abusive. He would drink and take drugs, while Ava was working three jobs to support the family. Finally, after several years of poor physical and mental health as a result, Ava returned to England with her daughter. They moved in with her mother and she sought treatment. She was declared medically unfit to work or to return to her former home abroad. 

Ava’s husband started Hague Convention proceedings against her, accusing her of child abduction and demanding that their child return to live with him. Ava said: “I had no knowledge of the Hague Convention. I didn’t know such a law existed. I was served notice and I didn’t know what it was or what it entailed. I’d never even been to court before.”

Without the funds to pay for representation, and ineligible for legal aid, Ava could see no option but to represent herself, until she was put in touch with legal charity Advocate, through which barrister Robin Powell from 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square agreed to assist.

Ava’s daughter expressed her desire to remain with her mother and medical evidence supported Ava’s need to remain in the UK. At the final hearing the judge decided that Ava and her daughter could stay in the UK together.

Ava was in disbelief: “I told Robin, I don’t know what you say to somebody who’s saved your life, because he truly had. I can’t believe he did that for me, for nothing. Robin is a perfect example of what British law should be about.”

For Ava, the story isn’t over. She is still recovering, but with support from her family, friends and Women’s Aid, she says she is “getting stronger and stronger” and looking to a future with her daughter in safety.

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity

Advocate is a legal charity that matches volunteer barristers with people in need of advice, drafting and representation. Sign up to the barrister panel at

Women’s Aid is a national charity that works towards ending domestic abuse: