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Family Law

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22 SEP 2009

ABDUCTION: Stochlak v Poland (Application No 38273/02)

(European Court of Human Rights; 22 September 2009)

Proceedings relating to the grant of parental responsibility required urgent handling, as the passage of time could have irremediable consequences for relations between a parent and his or her child. It was clear that the father's child had been unlawfully removed from the country, yet a year and 7 months had passed between the first decision ordering the mother to return the child and the dismissal of the mother's appeal. Furthermore, in the context of the civil enforcement proceedings, during the 3 years following the decision ordering the child's return within 3 weeks, no activity by the authorities could be identified.. The authorities had to have an adequate and sufficient legal arsenal to be able to take sanctions in the event of manifestly unlawful behaviour by the parent with whom a child lived, yet no coercive measure had been taken against the mother in the context of the enforcement proceedings, and none of the three sets of criminal proceedings had resulted in a sanction. The authorities had therefore failed to make adequate efforts to enforce the father's right to the return of his child.

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