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Duration of Child Return Proceedings were a Breach of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights has recently given its decision in a case brought by a father who claimed that court proceedings concerning the return of his child lasted so long they were a breach of his rights under Art 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to respect for private and family life).

The case was brought by Adrian Rodolfo Ferrari, who is an Argentinian national and lives in Buenos Aires. Mr Ferrari had a child with a Romanian and Argentinian national in August 2005. The family’s permanent residence was in Argentina, but they travelled frequently on account of Mr Ferrari’s work assignments as a military pilot.

After having lived together in Cyprus for several months in 2006, Mr Ferrari agreed with his wife that she would go to Romania for a few months and return to Buenos Aires at the end of his contract in Cyprus in October 2007. However, his wife informed him in November 2007 that she would not be returning with the child to Argentina. She subsequently filed for divorce and custody of the child before the Romanian courts.

The Romanian courts granted the divorce in April 2008 but decided not to rule on the custody issue as, in the meantime, Mr Ferrari had lodged a request for the return of his child under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and those proceedings were still pending.

The Hague proceedings before the Romanian courts lasted from March 2008 to May 2009 when the courts issued their final ruling on the case, finding that the child had not been wrongfully brought to Romania as both parents had consented to the trip and that the father was unable to take proper care of the child due to his repeated assignments abroad for his job.

In September 2011 the Romanian courts granted custody of the child to the mother and awarded Mr Ferrari visiting rights. Mr Ferrari has had contact with his child in Romania on three occasions since late 2009.

Mr Ferrari complained that the length of the proceedings – 13 months – before the Romanian courts concerning the return of his child had meant that the family ties between him and his child had been broken.

The Court has now ruled that his Article 8 rights were breached and awarded Mr Ferrari EUR 7,500 in non-pecuniary damages.

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