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August 24, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

In this case, it’s taken one mother and two courts in separate countries to deny a child a relationship with her father (Marilyn Stowe Blog, 8/22/18). It looks to have been hard work, but they managed the feat. And of course, the ever bland and gob-smackingly dense John Bolch agrees. Where would we be without Bolch to pillory in the internet town square to the delight of the crowd that actually knows something about family courts and children’s well-being? John, it’s good for a man to have a purpose in life and that appears to be yours.

An American man and a Latvian woman seem to have been married in England and had a daughter in October of 2015. They separated about three months later.

After they separated the father suspected that the mother intended to remove the child from the jurisdiction, because she wished to return to Latvia with the child. Accordingly, on the 9th of February 2016 the father issued an application for an order prohibiting the mother from removing the child from the jurisdiction. An order in those terms was made by the court on that day.

Mom ignored the order that obviously was made without the stipulation that she turn over her passport to someone designated by the court. She took the child to Russia where her parents live and the two have been there ever since. Understandably, the father filed a petition, pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, in a Russian court. Apparently that petition is still pending.

He also filed an action in a British court asking that it issue an order enforcing its own order prohibiting the mother from fleeing with the child. Amazingly, the British court refused to do so.

Mr Justice Keehan accepted that the child was well cared for in Russia, where she had been living for two years and four months at the time of the hearing. On the other hand, he was concerned that the father, who was not represented, was “focused, indeed obsessed, on the rights – his rights of parental responsibility, on [the child’s] rights to live in Russia or her rights to live in this jurisdiction.”

Yes, because the father was “focused, indeed obsessed” with his parental rights and the child’s rights to both parents, he was considered by the British judge to be undeserving of having any relationship with his child and indeed, no parental rights at all, at least none he can exercise.

First, if a father can’t be focused on his rights in a court of law, where should he be? Neither the judge nor Bolch appears to understand that courts are where rights are adjudicated and, not assisted by counsel as he was, the man probably felt the need to assert those rights as strongly as he could. Somehow that redounded to his detriment.

And of course the hook on which the court hung its hat was – you guessed it – the best interests of the child. Equally predictable, Bolch, who’s never met a court’s decision of which he disapproved, fails to even question the court’s thinking.

Most obviously, parental child abduction is child abuse as many mental health professionals have said and common sense agrees. So, as we so often see in abduction cases, the court that tells us it’s acting in the child’s interests ignores not only the indisputable fact of child abuse, in this case by the mother, but as well the fact that the child continues to live with her abuser. The same judge who failed to take the passport from a mother who was known to be a flight risk now rubberstamps her doing exactly that and all under the magic formula of the “best interests of the child.” Amazing.

And, also as we so often see, the Russian court has taken something like two years to do what the Convention requires to be done far sooner. In the meantime, it’s created a fait accompli – the child living peacefully with her abductor and grandparents. Who would interrupt such an arrangement just to comply with and international convention to which one’s country is a signatory?

As I’ve said before, it is precisely the reason that the Convention exists that (a) these cases be handled expeditiously and (b) whatever the temporary upset to the child at being returned to her father, the law is the law and should be enforced.

This of course is where Bolch is apparently willfully blind. When a court allows a parent to violate its order without consequence and cloaks its doing so in the mantle of the best interests of the child (or any other for that matter) it signals loudly and clearly to other parents that it doesn’t mean what it says, that court orders are just meaningless words. The British court’s refusal to enforce its order, and on the slimmest of pretexts, is an open invitation to future parents to violate future orders. The message is this: “Keep the child long enough and we’ll give you precisely what you wanted all along – the removal of the other parent from the child’s life.”

When the BIC is used in such a way, it accomplishes the opposite, not just in the case at bar, but in future cases. Bolch claims to have been a lawyer, but his invariable failure to grasp that simplest of legal concepts calls the matter into question.

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