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Unpreceded for the Cypriot Courts is the decision of the Supreme Court of Cyprus (the Court) which was issued on 16th of February 2021 (the Case). Specifically, the suspension of execution of the decision by the Paphos Family Courtaccording to the return of a minor to his father in the United States of America was ordered by the Court.
The background of the case
A couple living in New York gave birth to their child in 2016. However, the American father of the child complained that the Cypriot mother living in Paphos has kidnapped their son and transferred him to Cyprus without his permission. On the other hand, the mother claimed thather husband systematically abused her and that’s why she was forced to abandoned him in 2017 with the child. Also, she claimed to be victim of verbal, psychological and physical violence, she appealed to the US authorities for protection. At the same time, she contacted the Consulate of Cyprus in New York, achieving to gain Cyprus citizenship and a Cypriot passport for the child.
In this context, without the consent of the father, the mother returned to Cyprus and was living in Paphos. The child’s father rejected all of the mother’s claims. Her claims did not convince the Paphos Family Court, contrary to the testimony of the father, which was deemed admissible. As a result, the Court decided that the mother was required to return her minor son to the fatherwho resides in Americaby 10 February, as well as to pay the travel expenses and the legal costs. The Court also stated that there was no testimony showing that the child, who lived in the USA for the first twelve months of his life, has adapted to Cyprus conditions to such an extent that his eventual return would be detrimental.
The mother appealed the judgment of the Court of First Instance and requested for the decision of the Paphos Family Court to be suspended on eight grounds, including excessive delay in concluding the procedure and the violation of Article 11 of the Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. More specifically, attempts are being made to overturn the Paphos Family Court’s findings that the father had not been aware of the arrival of the mother with their son in Cyprus and that there is no serious risk of physical or mental distress for the minor with its return to the United States. In addition, it is interesting to state that the appeal referred also to the situation in the USA in relation to the coronavirus pandemic since, as the mother argued, such a return could seriously endanger her son’s health. On the contrary it was argued that in Cyprus the situation is clearly better and manageable. The mother also expressed her willingness through the appeal to accept any conditions and to sign any guarantee required, monetary or not, for the period in which the execution of the decision will be suspended.
Suspension of the enforcement of the decision
In the appeal, the mother expressed the position that the immediate enforcement of the decision can only have negative consequences, which will have an irreversible impact on her child. It is further noted that failure to approve the stay of execution may render the Appeal obsolete, as there is no mechanism for the return of the child to Cyprus from the United States.
The decision for the suspension of execution
Finally, the Supreme Court decided to suspend the execution of the decision of the Paphos Family Court which forced the mother to return the child on the same day to his father in United States. In particular, the Supreme Court unilaterally decided not to enforce the decision until the date of 16 February 2021, when both parties of the Case must present before the Court for the hearing of the application. The suspension was eventually renewed until the hearing of the Appeal, which will begin on 4 March 2021.
Such cases are not a common occurrence for the Cypriot courts. The importance of such a decision by the Supreme Court could not be ignored since otherwise the mother would be deprived of her child permanently, without any reconnection mechanism and with the appeal becoming obsolete. As a result of the decision the mother will not return the child until the judgment of the Court in thethe appeal. Undoubtedly, such contributes to the proper award of justice.