News Local Court ignored child's wishes in custody dispute

Court ignored child’s wishes in custody dispute

An Appeals Court has overturned a Family Court decision awarding custody of a boy to his German-born mother after it found mistaken the way the lower court had handled the child’s wishes to live in Cyprus with his father, Phileleftheros reported on Fridau. 

The 10 year-old boy’s parents were not married when he was born. The father, who recognised the child, is Cypriot and lives in Cyprus and the mother is German living in Germany. There was a protracted dispute between the parents on who would get custody and whether the child would live with permanently in Cyprus or Germany. 

The father then filed a claim with the Family Court in 2015 seeking custody and an order prohibiting the child to exit the country without the Court’s permission and the father’s written consent. 

The Judge in charge of the case heard testimonies from the parents and the child’s teacher and held an interview in her office alone with the child as is required by law. Her decision was to award custody to the mother and issued an order allowing her to take the child to live in Germany with her permanently. 

The Appeals Court stated in relation to the boy’s interview that he was subjected to double the questions than he should have, alluding to a comparable case in the UK that had 87 questions. It added that even though the child explicitly requested to live in Cyprus and only visit Germany for holidays, the Court resolved that this was not his genuine choice.

It also emphasised that “there is a fine line between what is permissible for the [Family] Court to obtain from an interview with a child and what is beyond its powers … The child’s preference as set out in the answers to the interview, even if it were permissible for the Court to conclude that it was not sincere, could not lead to the court establishing is genuine desire in a positive way so as to influence the final findings of the Court.” 

Examining the case as a whole, the Appeals Court ruled that “the Court’s findings are precarious, thereby affecting its final judgment”. On this basis, the Appeals Court annulled the Family Court’s decision.

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