Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland mother in Maltese court battle for custody of tug-of-love son (10)

By Adrian Rutherford

A Northern Ireland mother at the centre of an international court battle over custody of her 10-year-old son has said that all she wants is “justice” for her child.

The mother flew out to Malta on Monday in an attempt to overturn a court order made in Belfast that the boy must live with his Maltese-born father.

The couple lived in Northern Ireland for five years before settling on the Mediterranean island in 1996 — but they split in 2002.

In November, the High Court in Belfast heard how the boy had lived with his mother until May 2011, when an alleged drunken incident led to him being placed in his father’s care.

The claim is strongly disputed by the mother, who is now involved in a lengthy legal battle to have the order overturned.

She is seeking joint custody, allowing her son to be educated in Northern Ireland while spending his holidays in Malta. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the woman described how the court battle has taken its toll. “This has had a massive impact on my life,” she said.

“I had a good life in Malta until they took my son. I have lost my house, my businesses, my money — but I’m not going to lose my little boy.

“All I want is justice — for myself and for my son.”

Neither the woman, who is from Co Down, or her son can be identified.

The boy came to Northern Ireland last July for a one-month holiday with his mother.

Proceedings were triggered under the Hague Convention when the child was not returned to Malta.

The High Court heard how the child said he had not enjoyed living with his father’s girlfriend, and didn’t want to go back to Malta because he would miss his mother.

The boy was returned after his father pledged to grant his mother regular access and pay for their flights. However, the mother claims that none of the promises was kept.

The woman, who is hoping to persuade the Maltese authorities to grant joint custody, described her despair at not seeing her son at Christmas.

“I had Christmas stolen from my son; I cannot bring that back,” she added.

“Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were very hard.

“I only got to speak to him on Boxing Day. I have his presents here waiting for him and the decorations are still up.

“They aren’t coming down until he’s home.”

The woman said that all she wants is for her son’s wishes to be heard.

“I’m not in this to fight with his father; it’s about my child’s future,” she said.

“All I want is my son home, if that’s his wish, and I know it is.

“He has told me he wants to come back to Northern Ireland.

“I just want his wishes to be heard in court.”

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for January 23 in Malta.

Background

Court action commenced against the Co Down woman last September when she did not return her 10-year-old son to his Maltese father after a month-long summer holiday in Northern Ireland. The legal proceedings were brought under Article 12 of the Hague Convention on the grounds of wrongful detention. The woman wants to have a previous court order overturned and secure joint custody of her son. She is being helped by South Down MLA Jim Wells.

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