Despair … the father caught up in an international custody battle has “had enough” and returned to Italy. Photo: Michelle Smith
The Italian father embroiled in an international custody battle has left Australia after giving up hope he will win his legal fight to get his daughters back to Italy.
The father – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – flew out of Australia on Friday morning without telling any of his local supporters he was leaving. He contacted them from a stopover in Abu Dhabi to tell them he had “had enough”, and was on his way back to Italy.
The 35-year-old has been in Australia since May trying to engineer his daughters’ return to Italy. Born and raised there, the sisters, aged nine, 10, 13 and 15, were brought to Queensland by their Australian mother two years ago on the pretext of a holiday – and stayed.
His four daughters left behind in Australia. Photo: Cade Mooney
Supporters said the “very emotional and angry” father made the snap decision to abandon his fight for custody after his daughters made it clear on Wednesday they would resist any court orders to return them to Italy for a custody hearing.
The sisters went into hiding in May when the Family Court first ruled they must go back to Italy so courts there could settle the custody dispute in accordance with Australia’s obligations as a signatory to the Hague Child Abduction Convention.
But the father despaired of this ever happening, after a Family Court judge agreed on Thursday to hear an appeal to dismiss his original order the girls be sent back to Italy. The application to discharge his ruling will be heard on September 27.
The judge also ordered the girls be interviewed again by an independent consultant to ensure their wishes were understood, noting their desire to remain in Australia could have intensified since his first order was made.
It is understood that the father has spent €120,000 ($142,000) on the custody fight and has been on unpaid leave from his job for months.
Although he declined to comment on why he decided suddenly to leave Australia, supporters said he had grown increasingly frustrated with the way his former wife had used the Australian legal process to evade the Italian courts.
The father has publicly accused the mother of playing “dirty tricks” to win custody.
A spokesman for the father said he could not continue to fight for the children under circumstances that constantly thrust them into situations that were not in their best interests emotionally or psychologically.
”He loves and cherishes his daughters and always will,” he said. ”He will never give up on them.”
The spokesman also said Australia had little respect for the Hague Convention and international child abduction laws.
The father said last month that he felt discriminated against because he was a man and not Australian.
While the custody case dragged through the courts, the girls have been living with their mother and attending school on the Sunshine Coast. Their father had been granted regular access pending the final decision on whether the family must return to Italy.
The girls hold dual Italian-Australian citizenship.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/father-gives-up-custody-battle-20120818-24f30.html#ixzz23w5TcRoM