NZ mother wins custody battle for baby

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 01/07/2014

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A Kiwi woman has become embroiled in an international tug-of-war for her 7-month-old daughter after she unexpectedly became pregnant in Europe.

The 27-year-old had allegations of habitual drug use and links to criminals thrown at her by the 25-year-old British father as the pair tussled for custody in the Family Court division of the High Court in London last month.

A written decision from their hearing, obtained by The Dominion Post, reveals the pair met in 2012 while the mother was working as a waitress in England.

Their names were suppressed.

In February last year, they set off on a three-month trip across Europe but a month into their travels the woman discovered she was pregnant.

They returned to New Zealand in May last year and settled in the North Island, where the baby was born.

In his written decision, Justice Jackson said the pair stuck it out on this side of the world for about eight months but struggled financially and their relationship suffered. "Each parent attributes problems in the relationship to difficulty in the other's mental health," he said.

Eight weeks after the baby was born, the couple moved back to England and settled with the father's parents in eastern England.

The couple's relationship ended in February this year, having lasted no more than 15 months. A day later, the mother kicked the father when he tried to take the child from her.

A three-day custody hearing was held in London, during which the father produced medical records that showed the mother, when she was 17, needed mental health counselling for her low mood and angry outbursts.

He also claimed she had been a habitual drug user who had a convicted drug dealer and firearms user as a previous boyfriend.

The mother accepted there were times when she had lost her temper, including assaulting the father. She said her drug use amounted to taking a few ecstasy tablets and using cocaine on one occasion.

She denied the other allegations, and Jackson agreed the father had lied in an attempt to make the mother look like a risk to her child.

"He has even, on the most flimsy basis, suggested she may have had a concealed child at a younger age."

The judge noted there was no evidence to suggest either parent had done a bad job of raising the child thus far.

The father had his own demons and was taking medication for depression. Both parents were receiving counselling to strengthen their mental health.

In the end, the judge sided with the mother because she was more honest about her role in the breakdown of the relationship, and she would be more likely to find ways of fixing it.

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He ruled the child should live with her mother in New Zealand and see her father on agreed occasions.

- The Dominion Post

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