European Court awards damages to father after bitter custody battle
June 14, 2013 5 comments
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.