FAMILY PROCEEDINGS/HUMAN RIGHTS: Bevacqua and S v Bulgaria

17 JUN 2008

(European Court of Human Rights; 12 June 2008)

Following the parents' separation and during extended custody proceedings in Bulgaria, the mother agreed to the father having contact with the child. However, the father refused to return the 3-year-old child to the mother's care, and thereafter refused the mother contact. The mother recovered the child from the kindergarten, which led to the father threatening her and eventually entering her home seeking to recover the child. The mother moved to a hostel for victims of domestic violence in another town, but the authorities threatened to prosecute her for abduction of the child. The Bulgarian courts failed to make an interim order concerning custody of the child, despite being asked to do so by the mother. In order to avoid prosecution the mother agreed that she and the father would care for the child in alternate months. While the child was living with the father there was further violence by father against mother. Eventually the mother was granted custody of the child, but the father was not prosecuted for his violence, or for subsequent violence against her.

There had been breaches of the mother's and the child's right to respect for private and family life under Art 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The length of proceedings had not been unreasonable, however, the court's failure to adopt interim custody measures without delay had adversely affected the wellbeing of the child. Further, insufficient measures had been taken in reaction to the father's behaviour.

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