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October 14th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Two cases, both involving Italian fathers, both involving alienation of children by their mothers, and both resulting in the forcible removal by police of the children, have surfaced inside of a ten days.  And in both, the news media reporting the cases and the people responding to those reports seem to have gotten exactly the wrong message.  Here’s the latest (EuroNews, 10/12/12).  And here’s a second article on it (Gazetta Del Sud, 10/11/12).

I’ve written several times about the Italian Dad who’s children were kidnapped to Australia by their mother.  It took him two years, and many thousands of euros to finally get them back to Italy, their home country.  During those two years, the mother Laura Garrett, and several of her relatives managed to convince the children that returning to Italy would be a disaster for them.  Of course, they’ve lived there almost all their lives, have friends and relatives there, have attended school there, etc.  But Garrett’s campaign of alienation was forceful and relentless enough that they came to believe that, if they returned to Italy, she would be unable to follow them.  That’s transparently false, but the kids got the message.  So, when the time finally came for them to get on the airplane to go be with their father, the girls resisted and, since they had been ordered by the Australian court to go, the police were enlisted to put them aboard the plane.  The whole thing was videotaped, and the outcry against what the police were forced to do was significant.

Information on the more recent case isn’t very plentiful, but suffice it to say that for several years, a mother living near Padua has been doggedly refusing to allow her son’s father to see him.  Of course, her refusal violates the court’s order that he have visitation, and so, after years of trying to see his son, the court ordered that he be taken by the police and turned over to the dad.  So the police marched into the boy’s classroom, picked him up and took him away to be with his father.  But the boy’s aunt, his mother’s sister, was on hand to videotape the whole thing and she lost no time in posting it to the Internet where it’s caused a minor nationwide scandal.

“The way our little boy was taken away is inhumane,” said the tearful mother. In response, Italy’s national police chief told ANSA he had “profound regret” for the way things were handled and ordered an internal investigation. “We will work with utmost rigor in the internal investigation,” said Antonio Manganelli. In response to the media storm, Italy’s national media watchdog warned outlets not to gratuitously play the video “for the health and dignity of the boy”.

So Mom is weeping, the police are bowing and scraping and the nation is outraged by the callous treatment of the child.  And indeed, who wants to see children being hauled around by the police, shoved into police cars or airplanes, and generally treated like the criminals they’re not?  The videos of the incidents are troubling, as they’re meant to be.

But lost amid the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth is the simple fact of who’s responsible, not only for the few minutes of anguish the children feel at being manhandled by the men in blue, but far worse for the alienation of the children from their fathers.  Has there yet been an article or TV news show that’s stated the obvious – that if Mom had behaved in a decent, caring manner toward her own kids, none of this would have happened?  I certainly haven’t seen it.

Everyone seems to want the police to have behaved differently, but not a soul explains just what they should have done.  After all,

A court in Venice had ordered that the boy be turned over to the custody of his father. Child-protection officers said they had repeatedly attempted to pick up the boy at his mother’s home but she and her family would not hand him over.

So, faced with her repeated violations of court orders over many years, what was the court supposed to do?  Had I been the judge, I’d have ordered her arrest after about the second violation.  I’d have made her pay the father’s attorney’s fees and maybe transferred custody to him, assuming Italian law permitted me to do so.  For all I know, the judge did all of those things and more, but there comes a time at which courts must stop trying to influence the behavior of recalcitrant parents and simply do themselves what the parents are refusing to do.  I suspect that’s what happened in this case.

In the mean time, both in Italy and in Australia, no one seems to want to admit who the real culprits are.  They’re not the police, they’re the mothers.  Each of them had the ability to abide by the court orders and to see to it that the children did, but they refused and guess who suffered for it.

My guess is that the courts probably do bear some measure of fault in both cases.  By bending over backwards to accommodate the flagrantly wrongful behavior of the mothers over years and years, the courts sent a message that ignoring court orders by the mothers was acceptable, would not be punished.  That only encourages those mothers who are bent on getting their own way, as these two clearly were.  When that message is delivered time and again, it should come as no surprise when mothers behave the way Laura Garrett and the Italian mother did.  Nothing excuses their disgraceful behavior, but judges should understand that they have the power to put a stop to it and it’s better to nip it in the bud than to let it flourish over the years.

But whatever part the court system played in the abuse of these children, it’s the mothers who are at fault.  Will someone in the mainstream news media please say so?

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