Kiwi Dad Wants His Kid Back, Let’s Hear From Mum – updated

Anyone forced to remain in New Zealand because their Kiwi partner won’t let their child leave the country may find Fairfax’s news report of some interest.

People thinking about having children with a Kiwi partner (or returning to New Zealand with a Kiwi partner) and their children are also advised to read this report.

The words used in this bitter custody battle leave a lot to be desired. This is very much being told from the New Zealand perspective, very much about the father’s loss. We’d love to hear this story from the mother’s side.

Here’s what the news report tells us (you can also watch a  3News video report from mid-February in NZ here, Simon’s Facebook page is here and there are photographs of him and his daughter appearing to be enjoying her 4th birthday together in Denmark published on 1 March 2012)

Update 13/3/2012:  Peter Ølholm, the lawyer representing the lawyer says he thought the Dutch documentary about the case “was factually incorrect in many respects, the documentary was far from a complete picture of the case” and that the film gives the impression she is not sick.

It also appears from the evidence from the court in Frederiksberg, she is below below its weight curve in relation to age and size” emphasizes Peter Ølholm. He also maintains that Emma receives much needed support in kindergarten, has to be assisted with her eating and that her mother Vicki’s has been given financial help to make up for wages lost due to time spent caring for her daughter

He says that Emma is mentally fragile. Otherwise, the municipality would not allocate the extra funding and that was not made clear by the television program. He also believes that his client has gone to great lengths to help manage Emma’s condition… read more

Emma, who was born in New Zealand, was taken to Denmark with her mum and dad when she was fifteen months old because she needed treatment at a specialist clinic for an eating disorder. Treatment that was unavailable in New Zealand.

After a period of time the father, Simon, decided to return to New Zealand whilst mum, Vicki, remained in Denmark with  Emma. As time progressed Vicki decided to stay in Denmark with her daughter rather than re-join her husband in Invercargill, a remote town in the South Island of New Zealand.

Invercargill has the ignominious distinction of being called ‘the arsehole of the world’ by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and was compared to ‘Chernobyl … or Bhopal or wherever really’ by BBC commentator Brian Moore.

It is unlikely to have the resources to provide the on-going care Emma requires. But people in the region have won a fight to keep a neurosurgery unit in the south and are helping to fund-raise for a  Chair of Neurosurgery at the University of Otago.

So far at least $1,000,000 out of the required $3,000,000 has been raised. The SBS Bank in Invercargill recently donated three iPad 2s to the unit.

Emma is presently being treated at the “Odense University Hospital (OUH) the largest and most specialized hospital in Southern Denmark. In terms of beds it is also the largest hospital unit in the whole country. It had an operating budget of just under 3.5 billion DKK in 2006 (NZ$0.75 billion) and employs 7,700 staff.

Invercargill is served by the Southland hospital which has 181 beds, by comparison OUH has 1,200 fixed beds.

Downtown Invercargill, from Wikipedia

Emotive words such as “kidnap” are being used, but in truth Emma’s mother has retained the child in her home country, it was the father who left them and returned to New Zealand. There is no “kidnap.”

We presume that the child, who is now 4 years old and whose 4th birthday was very special because it falls on a leap day, has both Danish and New Zealand citizenship and has a right to live in either country. She arrived lawfully in Denmark with both parents.

Note how, as told from the NZ perspective, this is all about the father’s rights under the Hague Convention.  If the child is returned to New Zealand without her mother it could have a serious impact on her mental health and well being.

One the face of it we think the Danish courts are correct in putting the child’s interests first and we hope she’ll continue to have a happy childhood in Denmark with her mum. We also hope her Dad will be able to enjoy spending time with her there, as he did on her birthday a few days ago.

In Denmark this has turned into a custody issue which is taking precedence over the Hague Convention. If Simon Maddison  misses his daughter so much why not put her interests above his own and leave Invercargill to move to Denmark? Emma has now spent most of her young life in Denmark, a country that is now her home.

We’re also questioning whether the mother may be able to use the Hague Convention to require the child to remain in Denmark, and not be removed to New Zealand with her father.  None of the press reports give us that side of the argument. As our own cases studies have shown, there are many overseas born children currently made to stay in New Zealand due to the Hague Convention, surely the same  rule applies in Denmark.

This is from a Southland Times report on

“A New Zealand man is in Denmark trying to gain access to his daughter, who he says was kidnapped three years ago.

A custody hearing will go ahead this week in Denmark, brought to the courts by Simon Maddison’s estranged Danish wife, Vicki.

But Mr Maddison says the custody hearing should be put on hold until he waits for a decision from the Supreme Court for an appeal to have the hearing held in New Zealand where his daughter was born.

“Why is New Zealand letting Denmark go ahead with the custody case now and not putting pressure on the Hague Convention? The custody case should be stopped. They’re harbouring a criminal.

Where are my human rights? It’s not my choice for Emma not to have her father in her life.”

It doesn’t take a psychologist to tell you that a child will suffer emotional harm if she’s removed from her mother at the age of 4, and handed over to a father whom she’s not seen much of since she was a baby.

There’s also the question whether he has the skills, and support, to raise a child that he’s hardly ever seen?

“Mr Maddison lost the case because a report by a senior child psychologist deemed it a grave risk to return Emma to New Zealand because of her psychological wellbeing if she was removed from her mother.

Mr Maddison made a formal complaint regarding the report and an application for a right of appeal to the Supreme Court was filed in May 2010 but in August 2010 it was declined.

But in September 2010, he received notice that his complaint to the psychology board had been upheld and they agreed the report was lacking in proper rationale, methodology and sound conclusions.

While New Zealand may have upheld their responsibilities, Denmark had not, he said…”

There’s more to the report but it does end with an overwhelming sense of entitlement from the father, who seems to put his rights and feelings above those of his child.

“Two years later the case is still ongoing and Mr Maddison says he would do everything he could for his “wee girl”.

I deserve my daughter and it has taken over my life. My daughter is a victim in this and so am I.”

The Southland Times contacted Emma’s mother, Vicki, last night. She declined to comment.”


This story was made into a documentary in Denmark by  television producer Morten Mauritson and presenter James McGarvey, and watched by over a million people.

If anyone knows this story from the Danish mother’s perspective, or can tell us how this international custody battle is regarded in Denmark, please let us know.

Algerian Abduction and Parochialism

Meanwhile, there’s another “child abduction” story in the NZ news that you may be interested in.

In this case the father,  former professional boxer Mohamed Azzaoui, 36 “kidnapped” his children from New Zealand to Algeria and it is the NZ based mum who is fighting to have them returned.

Notice how in this case, from the NZ perspective, the mother is deemed to be in the right because its in the children’s best interests to be with their mother.

Algeria (not bound by the Hague Convention) is referred to in New Zealand as a problem because it has a “parochial” system.

“A Northland mum fighting to bring her three kids home from Algeria after claiming her husband is holding them hostage may have trouble convincing judges it is in the children’s best interests for her to have custody, a lawyer who has worked on similar cases says.”…

…”The problem there, though, is that the Algerian Court system may favour the children being with their father in Algeria [rather than being returned to New Zealand with their mother].”

He said Algeria was a parochial system, which may well favour a father’s rights over a mother’s.” read more

But there’s still that perception in New Zealand that the rights of the parents should take priority over the rights of the child.

In both these sad cases it’s only when the provisions of the Hague convention are removed that we start to hear talk about the wishes of the child. That’s when an international “kidnapping”  (or retention in Emma’s case) turns into a custody dispute where the welfare and emotional wellbeing of the child is given priority.

Surely that wasn’t the intention of the treaty…?

Still thinking about raising children in New Zealand with your partner? You’d better be 100% sure that both of you want to live there until they’re 16, even if your children were born overseas.

You may also like our other blogs:

Both of these blogs attracted a lot of interest from our readers, read the comments sections of both posts.

Trapped In NZ – Father Won’t Let Child Leave (4 Oct 2011)

“Today we’re re-visiting one of our Migrants Tales with the intention of drawing attention to the plight of the many immigrant single parents and their children who are trapped in New Zealand because their ex-partner refuses to allow their child to leave the country.

Very often the wishes of the child are not taken into account, the court tends to favour it being brought up in New Zealand, regardless of its country of origin and the suitability of the parent that wishes to stay… “read more

Migrant Tales: Trapped In NZ – Father Won’t Let Child Leave (24 Oct 2010)

…The problem isn’t unique to New Zealand but the country’s isolation, and the many problems working & living in NZ presents, make a sad situation even more heart-breaking for the children and the families involved.

Many parents are caught between a rock and a hard place and find that they have no option other than to remain in the country if they still want access to their children, even if the child was born outside of NZ:

“I am in a heart breaking situation and i wondered if anyone else had been in a similar one. If so they I would love to hear from you, or any other thoughts.

I am British and my daughter was born in England in 2007, her father is a kiwi and he was on a working holiday over in London. The relationship was never really ideal, but we decided it was a great idea to move to New Zealand to give our daughter a great childhood etc, so that’s wehat we did when she was 7 months old.

Unfortunately New Zealand and I never really gelled, and I really have tried hard. I was disappointed with my job prospects over here mainly having enjoyed a great and lucrative career over in the UK, and missed the family support that I had at home in England. Unfortunately my relationship with my ex-partner dissolved for various reasons. When did finally separate we had been living in New Zealand for 2 years. We never married or anything.

I had been thinking for quite some time about returning home to England, but my ex-partner refused to allow our daughter to come back with me. I then appplied to the NZ courts to allow myself and our daughter to return to England. This was back in January and I have been on an emotional and isolating journey ever since….” read more

15 thoughts on “Kiwi Dad Wants His Kid Back, Let’s Hear From Mum – updated

  1. How, with a straight face, can you possible lead with “Invercargill has ignominious distinction of being called ‘the arsehole of the world’ by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and was compared to ‘Chernobyl … or Bhopal or wherever really’ by BBC commentator Brian Moore.”

    And then go straight into “Emotive words such as “kidnap” are being used, but in truth Emma’s mother has retained the child in her home country, it was the father who left them and returned to New Zealand. “

    Is the first para not completely full of “Emotive words”? And another thing, calling Brian Moore a BBC commentator is unsightly slur on the likes of Jeremy Paxman, David Frost and even Rageh Omaar. The man is a [an hom and personal attack deleted].

    • We did say it was an ignominious distinction.

      But both of those descriptions are in common usage within New Zealand, newspaper editorials and articles often quote it (a Google search will confirm that) You’ve probably heard them hundreds of times.

      Are you saying that they’re inaccurate in their perception of the town?

      We have no comment to make on Brian Moore (a qualified solicitor) and his likes or dislikes, other than he is entitled to his opinions as much as Viki is to hers, and that people value them.

      Note for readers:

      “Brian Moore represented England 64 times between 1987-95 and was a Grand Slam winner in 1991, 1992 and 1995. He also went on two British Lions tours.

      He is now a qualified referee and commentator for the BBC, as well as a columnist for the Daily Telegraph – he was shortlisted for Sports Journalist of the Year at the 2009 British Press Awards.

      His autobiography, Beware of the Dog (2009), reached No 1 in Amazon’s sporting autobiographies and went on to win the 2010 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award.” source

  2. Forgot to add my second point on this Algerian standoff.

    Many Northland communities are aware that the mother’s uncle on her maternal side is a recently convicted child sex offender. At one point he was also appointed as Plunket’s first male nurse.

    If one of the reasons the father took his wife and children back to Algeria (even if under less than honest circumstances) was to protect his family from a child sex predator than that must be valid?

    I agree, they should compromise for the sake of the kids and move somewhere where they can be a family (if that’s still possible)

    • Thank you BobbiK for your comment.

      Sometimes all of the factors which cause people to want to remove their children from New Zealand are not made public. These things are never as simple as they are made out to be by the media.

      • Hi E2NZ,

        Exactly. NZ media have a tendency to create over-simplified portrayals of very real people – without balanced information. The concern here is it risks undermining that principle of placing children’s rights first (although as I understand it, most NZ Family Court judges don’t pay much attention to how the public feel on custody issues.)

        I am of two minds over the NZ Family Court system. I have tremendous respect for the ‘best interests of children first’ principle. But I wonder whether the court culture is capable of practicing what they purport to ‘preach’. It seems so open to potential manipulation and undermining all sources. Much of that I attribute to a weak administration system. Perhaps the Government’s cut back of the public sector might impact positively on the court. Hopefully anyway.

          • I know that in Scandinavia and other parts of Northern Europe their media differs significantly from english-language Western media in their news-gathering and storytelling approach. It’s not uncommon to see live news coverage of civil protests where participants are hooked up to audio mics. The cameraman drops back and records the participants taking part in the demonstration, reacting to what’s happening. That coverage will form the core component of a report. Not soundbites from targeted individuals. Same thing with court reporting – emphasis on coverage and allowing viewers to ‘feel’ what’s going on, as opposed to being told what’s going on.

            It may have something to with their legal systems which is founded in civil law? It seems more participatory and allows, I think in the case of custodial issues, for better decision-making. Media, then, are obliged to follow that approach.

        • The courts have the same approach as the media; that is, they give people who appear in court that same horrifying “oversimplified” treatment. Lawyers know this, and push easily digestible caricatures in front of the judge. Your own lawyer will attempt to portray you with one caricature and the opposing judge will frame you otherwise. It does not matter if the details of your case contradict this. Many “vices” or “life mistakes” are overlooked, while others are seized on with no rhyme or reason and used as justification, depending on how they have pre-decided the case shall be handled (where in case law and currently trending social science research your case belongs, again, with no consideration for the individual details of the case) and the judge’s “take” on how you look, sound, etc.. So you really have no recourse in the courts. They are merely factories for disposing of cases. If the Kiwi parent ensures he or she has jurisdiction, it’s a life sentence for all but a minority of parents. The backlog, which is years long, ensures that inertia favours the person who has ensured NZ has jurisdiction. Legal aid is more generous than in other countries, but they have cut down on the awards. We knew some of these desperate parents trying to get out. Some were migrants lured to New Zealand, and their children had not even been born there. Essentially, years of their resources went down the NZ toilet. And large stretches of their children’s lives wasted there.



    Worlds apart.

    Not that I approve of a single thing he did, and heck I wouldn’t want to live there and wouldn’t want my kids there (wouldn’t want them in Kaikohe either), &my sympathies are with the mum if she was lured there and trapped like many of us migrants were to New Zealand. He probably wanted his children raised more strictly in a Muslim environment. They’d go to seed pretty fast in Kaikohe, you know it! But with religious fundamentalists running rampant through the Algerian cities, I can’t believe he would take his kids there either. The family should move somewhere that is a compromise, if they even stay together after this (which I doubt they will – I’d leave his arse in a second after this stunt).

    I heard they might be on their way back.

  4. Hi,

    Just a couple of things to say about the Mohamed Azzaoui / Mihi Puriri story.

    I don’t like the way the story has been portrayed in NZ media. They have only got one side of the story from the mother – that she and her kids were kidnapped etc It’s not proven, nor have they tried to get the father’s side of the story (except for maybe that BBC reporter in Algeria). But the point is that public perception in NZ is that the father is very much in the wrong – despite the fact that people who know the family and have been prepared to speak publicly all say they had a quality relationship. A spokesman for the mother says he’s working on the entire family coming back to NZ. But what kind of an environment can they expect to return to? A small town like Kaikohe, where no one pulls any punches? Mohamed Azzaoui better have good boxing skills to keep the pitchforks at bay.

    That’s what happens when media only get one half of a story and are too lazy to follow up.

  5. This Kiwi father seems to think that because the child was born in New Zealand, she is a Kiwi and therefore has to come BACK to New Zealand regardless of any other dimensions to her life–medical, identity-related or other. As if New Zealand and the father “own” her. But that has not stopped The New Zealand Family Court from forcing the NZ residency of foreign children who were not born in New Zealand simply because they had been living in New Zealand for a year or so and have a Kiwi parent (who managed to make sure that NZ would be the jurisdiction it would play out in), and had not gone back home before the parents split up. Some countries consider that 6 months is enough to have “settled” in a country for purposes of jurisdiction. The half-Algerian family had been in Algeria for 10 months already, although arguably Muslim patriarchal systems are entirely different from our own.

    I do not blame that mum, or all the other ones who want to go home after moving to New Zealand and having their eyes opened. Brand New Zealand is worth 18.4 billion dollars –
    and how much of that do these poor mums from more developed countries find they have available to them personally, fr rent, food, petrol, electric and high-quality medical care? One hundred percent Zero.

  6. The great city of Invercargill with its vast medical resources is all that little girl needs, yea right. The Kiwi parent’s P.R. is certainly impressive, tear machine and all. How about the girl’s medical welfare and being closer to her mum, though? Not important? Let’s hear about this disorder. I don’t imagine Invercargill could handle anything beyond the common flu?

    The fact is, if she was taken there lawfully and they settled in, then the mother has done what she needed to do in order to ensure her child’s welfare. And, if she had planned it, to win her case. The New Zealand court is not in favour of relocation, and life here is so difficult that some parents do try desperate or sneaky measures once they realise it will be eons before they can ever leave. If they ever are allowed to leave before the child is an older teen.

    It seems clear that the mother does not think that life in New Zealand is good for her daughter, and reading this website, I can understand why she doesn’t.

    What bothers me is that those parents who stay in New Zealand and play by the rules aren’t being cut any slack for being “good”. If some of the parents who are trapped here, my niece for one, who went through the courts and did it “right”, had left in the manner of that mum (or the Algerian who also escaped), she might have been home by now with her children. Living a real life. In New Zealand, only stupid people play by the rules, and these parents worked that out for themselves. If you can manage to pull one over on the other parent, good on ya. That’s the way it works here. I only hope these latest headline parents’ mad dash for freedom with their children doesn’t harm the chances of the stupid non-Kiwi parents rotting here patiently at the end of the world, hemorrhaging money and years of our lives in their courts hoping to be granted a get out of jail card.for “playing by the rules”.

  7. It’s either Emma lives in NZ with her dad and her mom cant stay with her because obviously their marriage has ended therefore she cannot get a Visa to stay in NZ permanently OR Emma lives with her mom in Denmark which is what she is doing.
    Simon most likely had an opportunity to get a visa to live in Denmark in the beginning but as the marriage dissolved that is now impossible.
    Denmark is a much better place than New Zealand; good on her for wanting what is best for her daughter.
    Simon had his chance and I am guessing his self righteous ‘New Zealand is the best country in the world to bring up a kid’ attitude ruined the marriage.
    Sorry Simon you lose.

    • Those are good observation Kal, we don’t know the visa status of the mother, or the reasons why she didn’t go back to New Zealand with her husband.

      It’s always sad when children become tugs of war in marriage break ups but international custody battles must be extremely traumatic for all concerned.

      Let’s hope the child’s best interests are paramount and this is resolved as soon as possible, for everyone’s sakes.

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