Taiwan court grants Italian father visitation rights in int'l custody case

12/02/2022 09:42 PM
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The Italian father in the parental rights case is pictured at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in March, when he left Taiwan without his daughter. CNA file photo
The Italian father in the parental rights case is pictured at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in March, when he left Taiwan without his daughter. CNA file photo

Taipei, Dec. 2 (CNA) The Taipei District Court has ruled that a child at the center of a custody battle between an Italian businessman and a Taiwanese woman should spend part of her school vacations in Italy with her father.

In a verdict issued Friday, the court said that in order to strengthen the child's "direct and personal relations with her father and (paternal) relatives," she should spend 10 and 30 days, respectively, of her winter and summer vacations living with him in Italy.

The legal battle started in 2017, when the father took the girl -- who at the time lived with her mother, surnamed Chan (詹), in Taiwan -- to Italy to visit his family, where she remained against the will of the mother.

Chan later flew to Italy and brought her daughter back, which the father described as an abduction. He subsequently came to Taiwan to fight for legal custody of the child.

The daughter was born in 2014, but the parents were never married.

In January this year, Taipei District Court ruled that the father had sole parental rights and ordered Chan to return the child to her father by March 14.

Chan lodged an appeal in February, but the Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision that the mother must hand over the girl by the deadline.

The case garnered media attention after the girl wrote a widely publicized letter to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), in which she said she wished to stay in Taiwan.

After the child refused to be taken by officers of the court from her school on March 14, Chan appealed to the Constitutional Court later that same month, requesting a stay of execution, which was granted.

After hearing the case, the Constitutional Court found in May that the Supreme Court's ruling had violated the Constitution's intent to protect the personal rights and dignity of minor children. It returned the case to the Supreme Court, which in October invalidated its initial ruling and sent the case back to the Taipei District Court.

In its ruling on Friday, the Taipei District Court acknowledged that the girl had not expressed a desire to spend vacations with her father in her testimony.

However, based on the child's "contradictory" statements -- such as that she missed her father but did not want to see him -- the court concluded that she was "facing a loyalty dilemma" in the conflict between her parents and that her words "did not necessarily reflect her actual feelings."

The court also admonished the parents, saying their "mutual mistrust" had caused the child to "lose out on the linguistic and cultural advantages of dual citizenship" and subjected her to emotionally traumatic experiences.

The intent of the verdict is to "rebuild a cooperative co-parenting relationship" and restore to the child the benefits of dual citizenship, the court said, adding that it had referred the parents and girl to counseling services to help facilitate this process.

The court warned that failure to adhere to the verdict or return the child to the other parent on time could be considered improper parental conduct -- a designation that could potentially affect the current custody arrangements.

(By Lin Chang-shun, Ko Lin and Matthew Mazzetta)

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