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.
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 Stuff.co.nz
“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
…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