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Poland: Father awarded €23,000 in Hague Convention child access human rights dispute

A Canadian father has been awarded €23,000 by human rights judges, who ruled that Polish authorities by-passed the Hague Convention to keep his son with his mother.

G.N. v. Poland (no. 2171/14)

The applicant, G.N., is a dual Polish and Canadian national who was born in 1961 and lives in Mississauga (Canada).

The case concerned his complaint that the Polish courts had refused to order the return of his child to Canada.

In 2009, G.N. married a Polish national, E.N., in Canada, where the couple continued living and where their son was born in September 2010. While they were in Poland on holiday in May 2011 they split up, and E.N. refused to return to Canada with the child. G.N. went back to Canada alone.

In October 2011, he lodged an application with the Polish courts to have his child returned under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

In January 2013, the competent district court dismissed the application. While the court held that the child had been wrongfully retained in Poland by the mother, within the meaning of the Hague Convention, it concluded – relying in particular on an expert report which found that the child had a strong emotional bond with his mother, did not remember his father and did not perceive him as a parent – that returning the child to Canada would pose a threat to his emotional and social development.

The court also considered that interim orders issued in the meantime by the Canadian courts, granting G.N. full custody of the child, were irrelevant to the application at hand. The decision was upheld on appeal in July 2013.

In parallel, in 2012, G.N. lodged an application with the Polish court for arrangements to secure his right of contact with the child. The competent district court returned the application as unsubstantiated, finding that G.N. had not demonstrated that the child’s mother had obstructed his contact with the child.

Divorce proceedings brought by E.N. are pending before the Polish courts.

Relying on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, G.N. complained in particular of the dismissal of his Hague Convention request. In particular, he alleged that the Polish courts had misapplied the Hague Convention and allowed the child to become alienated from him by failing to decide the case speedily.

Violation of Article 8

Just satisfaction: 9,000 euros (EUR) (non-pecuniary damage) and EUR 14,446 (costs and expenses)

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