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Supreme Court upholds prison sentence on father in custody dispute

The supreme court in Nicosia

The Supreme Court has upheld a decision for a 45-day prison sentence of a man who failed to return of his two children back to their mother and for turning them against her.

According to the ruling, released on Tuesday, the man took his children from school in March 2019 when they were 7 and 8.5 but did not return them to their mother who had been awarded custody.

In June last year he was ordered by the court to return the children, but she reported that he had not.

The father claimed that he had done everything in his power to return them but that they had refused to leave him The mother was to pick up the children from his house. The man said that on that day, the mother went to his house escorted by two social workers and four police officers but that the children had strongly refused to go with their mother.

He also said he had contacted the social welfare service and the police in a second attempt to return the children but that, once more, they refused. He also said that the children told the social welfare official who had escorted the mother that they did not want to return to her because she yells at them, abuses them, and talks bad about their father. The man claimed that the children said their mother did not let them contact him but that he allowed them to contact their mother when they were with him.

The mother claimed that since the father took the children, they have been under his control and she has not had any contact with them. She said he blocked any telephone access to her children and would not even allow her to be outside his house and called the police any time he saw her close by. She said he also hurled insults at her any time she tried to get near the children.

The court said that it acknowledged that the children did not want to go with their mother and no one could force them do something they did not want. It argued, however, that when such a court order is not executed it ought to investigate whether the minors refused because of the negative influence of their father.

It said that the hostility the children exhibited against their mother did not absolve the father of his responsibilities and it did not overlook the fact that they were under his full control since March 2019 when they were very young and easy to manipulate emotionally.

“The unjustified lack of respect and rudeness of the children towards their mother, and a persistent hostile attitude towards her, does not support the claims of the father that he does what is humanly possible to comply with the order,” the court said.

The court ruled that the father was using the children’s refusal as a shield of protection, without substantiating his allegations. It also said that the longer the mother was excluded from their lives, the more they were alienated from her at the risk of her eventually becoming a complete stranger to her children.

It added that any last-minute prompts or instruction to the children on his part when their mother went to pick them up, “did not matter.”

“What would matter was for him not to cultivate in the children such a hostile attitude towards their mother,” it added. The court also said it took into account that he did not let the mother approach his house by chaining the gate, ignoring her calls and ill-treating her.

The Supreme Court ruled that the 45-day imprisonment imposed by the Court of First Instance was inevitable. “It is not only a question of legality, but also of trying to implement a court decree which presupposes, when it was issued, that it was in the best interests of the children to be cared for by their mother,” it added.

If the father holds a different view, it said, he should try to change the situation by legal means. “Instead, he took the law into his own hands, violated the decree and created an unacceptable situation.”

After the father was sentenced, the court instructed the director of the social welfare services to provide all possible assistance for the minors to be placed in the care of their mother.

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