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26/07/2021

Court rules that child brought to Ireland by mother without father's consent should be returned to Lithuania

Court rules that child brought to Ireland by mother without father's consent should be returned to Lithuania

A High Court judge has ordered that a young girl who was removed by her mother to Ireland must be returned to their native Lithuania.

The child's father made an application under the International Convention regarding child custody and welfare known as the Hague convention seeking the child's return after the mother moved to Ireland with their child to live with her new partner late last year.

The mother of the young girl opposed the application. The parties in the case cannot be named for legal reasons.

In her judgement Ms Justice Mary Rose Gearty said that after considering the evidence before the court it had no discretion other than order that the girl be returned to Lithuania.

Her removal, the judge said was "wrongful." The judge also found that the child's removal to Ireland without the father's consent was 'a significant disruption' to the child.

The court said that arising out of a settlement between the parents after the mother brought proceedings before the Lithuanian courts in 2019 the father enjoyed custody rights in respect of the child.

The court did not accept arguments made by the mother that the child was at grave risk if returned, or that the child was well settled in Ireland.

The court noted that child's parents were not married and that the mother said she had to go to court in Lithuania to establish the father's paternity and secure maintenance payments.

A court settlement arising out of those proceedings, the court held, resulted in the father coming into contact with the child.

It also culminated in the child staying with him exclusively for a month in late 2020 while the mother was in Ireland, and in self isolation following her visit. 

The child's mother had argued that in Lithuania the father had missed some visits, and had failed to meet financial obligations to the child, and had little interest in their daughter.

The judge said that may have been the case initially, but that was superseded by the fact the father agreed to and took care of the child for a month while her mother was in Ireland.

The father the court added had established that he was exercising custody rights recognised under the convention.

The mother had also claimed that the child was upset upon her return after the child spent four weeks with the father, which was due to the father's alleged bad character.

The mother also claimed that she now has nowhere to live in Lithuania.

The father, the mother claims, has "a hatred for everyone." On one access visit the mother said by reading the father's lips she could see him tell the child that he wanted to kill the mother.

Those claims were denied.

Even at their height the mother's allegations the judge said they did not meet the threshold to establish the child was at grave risk.

The child may have been upset by being away from the mother for four weeks, or from being removed out of the father's care after a month of being primarily cared for by him.

The mother's allegations about the father were general and were matter for the Lithuanian courts the judge said.

The judge also added that the father was the person the mother had voluntarily left the child with for a month.

In all the circumstances the court said that the child should be returned to Lithuania.

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