Alienated mother wins human rights claim

Children|International|November 7th 2019

I have written quite a bit here recently on the subject of parental alienation. In particular, there was the sorry case in which the father withdrew his contact application after the mother had alienated the children against him. One of the problems, in that case, was that the issue of parental alienation was not dealt with quickly enough, with the result that it had become too entrenched by the time that the court did try to do something about it.

ECHR claim

And now I come across the recent European Court of Human Rights (‘ECHR’) judgment in the case Pisica v The Republic of Moldova.

The case concerned a claim by a mother that, by failing to take effective measures so as to ensure her access to her children, who had been alienated against her by their father, the Moldovan authorities had breached her right to protection of her family life, pursuant to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

I will summarise (and simplify) the most important facts of the case as follows.

  1. The mother and father were married in 2002.

  2. They had a son, born in July 2003.

  3. The marriage broke down, and they were divorced in 2006. The mother obtained custody of the son.

  4. The parties began cohabiting again, and had two more children, twins, in 2007.

  5. The relationship broke down again, and the mother left the family home in December 2012, taking the three children with her.

  6. In July 2013 the father went to the mother’s house and forcibly put the two younger children in his car, driving them to his house without the mother’s permission.

  7. The mother applied to the court for custody of the two younger children. In July 2013 she asked the court to deal with the application urgently, as she said that the father was turning the children against her.

  8. There then followed some to-ing and fro-ing of the children between the parents, with the father again taking the children without the mother’s agreement. By June 2014 all three children were living with the father.

  9. Meanwhile, and thereafter, the mother made various pleas for assistance from the authorities.

  10. On the 24th of June 2015 the court awarded custody of the two younger children to the mother.

  11. In August 2015 the mother complained to the police that the father was continuing to refuse to allow her to have contact with the children, despite the custody order.

  12. In November 2015 the mother complained to the Prosecutor General’s Office, stating that the father had managed to influence their children to the extent that they hated her. They suffered from parental alienation syndrome, and the authorities had failed to prevent that, despite her many complaints concerning the father’s actions. She asked for the children to be removed from the father’s family as a matter of urgency, and placed in a placement centre in order to receive psychological assistance.

  13. The mother sought to enforce the custody order, but all attempts to enforce it failed. On one occasion the mother met with the children at the father’s home, but they refused to go with her.

  14. In July 2018 the court transferred custody of the two younger children to the father, in part because they had clearly expressed their wish to live with their father and not their mother.

The mother then made her ECHR claim.

Article 8 violation

Without going into the details of the timeline of events between 2012 and 2018, the ECHR found that there had been a violation of Article 8. This is perhaps the critical finding:

“The Court considers that the alienation of the applicant’s children, of which the applicant complained much earlier than any judgment concerning their custody was adopted, was a major factor impeding the enforcement of the judgment of 24 June 2015. Therefore, the authorities’ failure to react to the applicant’s complaints about alienation and to examine the custody case in an urgent matter must be seen as having substantially contributed to the eventual difficulties in enforcing the judgment”

Accordingly, the ECHR held that the Moldovan authorities did not act with the exceptional diligence required of them, or discharge their positive obligations under Article 8 of the Convention. There had therefore been a violation of Article 8. The mother was awarded damages of 12,000 euros, plus 2,000 euros costs and expenses.

Not, you might think, much at all for the loss of one’s children. However, it must be hoped that the judgment will encourage the relevant authorities everywhere to deal with parental alienation cases with all possible speed and diligence.

The full ECHR judgment can be found here.

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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