Last night, the four sisters aged 9 to 15, in the middle of an international custody battle were placed in the care of a Department of Communities officer to be flown back to Italy.
Before issuing the warrant, Justice Forrest, who was presiding over the case, received assurances from the father in Italy that he would withdraw criminal complaints against the girls mother.
Under the Hague Convention, a signatory country has to make arrangements for any children wrongfully removed from their country of primary residence to be returned. The judge’s ruling was based on this law.
While it has been reported that the girls are being sent back to live with their father, this is not the full story. Their case will be heard in an Italian court and both the mother and father will need to provide evidence so that the court can make a fully informed decision on where the girls would be best placed.
Read more from the Brisbane Times.
There will be no winners in this case. It is sad when a marriage breaks down and even worse when one party has their access to their children forcefully removed. Many conclusions have been jumped to by members of the public in this case without the clear facts being known.
The mother had moved out of the family home in Italy in early 2007 but the flight to Australia was not boarded until June of 2010. Until that time, custody of the children was shared under a consensual separation agreement.
Instead of going to court with evidence which could have allowed her full custody, the mother appears to have misled the father of the girls when she said they were going on a holiday to Australia, when, in fact, there was never any plan to return.
I hope to be a father in the future and realise that close to 50 per cent of marriages end in divorce so the statistics are telling me that this could, potentially, be a situation with which I am confronted. I could think of nothing worse than having my children stolen away from me and taken to another country while I was portrayed as a monster, in that country’s media, due to accusations from my ex-wife.
There are those who will say “I would do anything for my kids” and many believe this is what the mother was doing by taking them away from their father. My belief is that if she was a responsible mother, she would have taken her case to the Italian courts and sought full custody. At very least, she should have informed herself about international laws. She would have found that the Australian authorities had no option but to return the children to Italy.
What would you do in her situation?