European Court awards damages to father after bitter custody battle

Budapest CastleThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has awarded an American father €22,500 (£19179.74), after Hungarian authorities failed to enforce contact orders regarding his child.

Prizzia v Hungary concerned the man’s marriage to a Hungarian woman. They met and wed in the US and later had a child. When the boy was three, she took him to visit relatives in Hungary but did not return, instead filing for divorce in her home country. The father responded by launching proceedings in Hungary for the return of the boy under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Hungarian authorities concluded that the mother’s actions had been illegal but did not make an order for the child’s return. Following the completion of the couple’s divorce, the father was awarded contact with his son – four days each months and a month long summer holiday in the US.

But the mother did make the boy available for the holidays and instead disappeared from Budapest. The manattempted to enforce the contact orders over a period of four years. The mother was fined but still do not allow the father to see his son. Eventually the boy said he didn’t want to see his father, believing he would keep him in the US and no longer considered him a part of the family.

The father applied to the ECHR, saying the failure of Hungarian authorities to properly enforce the orders for contact with his child had breached his rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 8 sets out a right to respect for “private and family life”. In addition, the proceedings had lasted an unreasonably long time, also breaching his rights under Article 6 of the Convention. The latter defines the right for legal proceedings to be heard within a reasonable time.

The court ruled in his favour, noting that the delays could have caused irreversible damage to the man’s relationship with his son. The fines imposed on the mother had not been sufficient and the state had not taken all reasonable steps to enforce the father’s rights to contact with his child.

Photo of Budapest Castle by Túrelio via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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5 comments

Luke - June 14, 2013 at 5:06pm

He gets tiny damages and still ends up with no relationship with his son, can you imagine the uproar if the man had been doing this ?

The predictability of the father getting completely screwed is depressing :-(

Paul - June 15, 2013 at 1:06am

However, Luke, this judgement will have reverberations, I believe. I think it sends a message that the courts must take proper steps to facilitate the contact that has been ordered.

A comment or two from a lawyer here would be useful.

Leslie Shaw - July 8, 2013 at 11:14pm

I got an identical judgement against Hungary 2 years ago.

http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx#{%22dmdocnumber%22:[%22888775%22],%22itemid%22:[%22001-105758%22]}

Dad_loves_daughter - October 10, 2013 at 2:45pm

My daughter (2 year old) also kept in Hungary 2010 after a holiday after an absence from me of nearly 8 months the ‘Hague convention’ court, in Hungary, ordered child to return to UK 2011, Thankfully.
The mother ‘ordered’ to pay the travel costs that I had to do to get my daughter back.

I have a shared residence order in the UK now.
Never give up believing.
I have just finalized a shared UK residence order now 2013

Ken McGlynn - March 6, 2014 at 2:45pm

Hi The dad who got his child back through the Hague Convention could you possibly mail me i would love to ask afew questions a im also looking at this process as an option for myself.Thanks in advance.Fingers crossed

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