It was so sad to see the four Australian sisters, aged between 15 and 9 years old, torn away from their mother and country to live with their father in Italy. The mother had gone to Italy to bring them to Australia for a 4 week holiday in 2010, and never sent them back, so essentially she kidnapped her daughters. The girls went into hiding in May 2012 after they didn’t comply to a court order to return to Italy in 2011, and since, there has been a bitter dispute in the Federal Court if they should be sent back to their father or not. It is all very complicated, but if you believe in the Hague Convention, then the mother did wrong. She could have gone about it a different way, rather than kidnapping, even though her daughters prefer to be with her rather than their father in Italy. It’s unfair on the girls to have been put in that position.
But it got me thinking, there must be so many incidences that one parent has 100% custody over their children due to distance, financial inability or just not wanting to be a part of their children’s lives anymore (or even the fact that a woman never told a man that she was having his baby). I guess, the story about the four Australian girls isn’t about parents who don’t want to have their kids in their lives, it’s the opposite. I know from the many people’s paths I’ve come across, their children’s father lives in a completely different country, different state or the other side of town, and it makes it impossible to have regular visits. But those fathers generally make some type of contact with their kids, either by phone, Skype or email, just to let them know that they are there. And many people who do divorce find that starting a new life somewhere else makes life easier to cope if they don’t have the regular contact with their ex, and the children don’t see the constant fighting over the little things – like paying for school camps, being there at a school concert, helping out with homework, etc.
So if this is the case, why do the courts insist that the best environment for the children is if the parents have 50/50 custody and joint responsibility for the children? How can that be? Have the court psychologists and politicians who create these laws ever been a fly on the wall in a divorce or through joint efforts in raising children separately? Do they really understand the psychological impact that happens to their children when they still see the fighting going on, and this time it’s about the kids, it’s not about their personal differences when they were married, so how do your think that makes the kids feel when the two people they love don’t agree with what’s best for them? It really isn’t the ideal environment.
In saying that, I do have a couple of friends who have relatively amicable relationships with their ex-husbands. Some try to get their husbands to spend more time with their kids because they have moved on to a new life with a new partner, while others go to the point of inviting each other to share birthdays and Christmases with their kids together. I guess that’s the ideal relationship the courts want all families to have… but the courts don’t live in the real world. They don’t understand that one parent wants the best for their children, and the other parent wants the best for themselves.
The sad part of the Italy/Australian story, is that the two elder girls were kicking and screaming so much on the plane before it departed tonight, that they were taken off the plane because they were upsetting other passengers. They have been ordered to be on a plane tomorrow night at 8pm. So now the little ones are by themselves, accompanying by the Australian Federal Police. Such a traumatic experience for them… and I know from my own boys, that they are more mature in their thought processes because of our divorce, and they know that they have to be there for each other in good times and bad. And they do… You’d just think that the older girls, no matter how upsetting the situation was, that they would have the maturity to look after their younger sisters and make sure that they weren’t alone. Maybe that’s a sign that there is no family bond at all. I had some friends post on Facebook today that if we give it time, in a few months there will be a 60 Minutes episode interviewing the family to see how they’ve settled back into Italy, and see that they are all happy… but I don’t see it… I see the older girls rebelling against their father, and possibly going missing for days on end because the system they wanted to believe in has let them down, and they don’t know what to believe in anymore.
This is an extreme case, but the custody battles many have to go through are just as heart-breaking, especially when you know, not a Court, what’s best for your children.