Str??mblad v. Sweden (Application No 3684/07)

INCADAT legal file Hague parental abduction

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The proceedings related to a child born in Sweden in August 2003 to a Swedish father and a Ukrainian mother (with permanent residence permits in both the Czech Republic and Sweden), who subsequently acquired Swedish citizenship. In the summer of 2005 the mother took the child for an extended visit to see the maternal grandparents in the Czech Republic.
Upon their return the parents’ relationship deteriorated and in September 2005 the mother unilaterally took the child back to the home of the grandparents in Prague. The father sought the return of his daughter to Sweden. He first commenced custody proceedings in Sweden and then filed a return application under the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention.
Substantive Custody Proceedings
In September 2005 the father filed for divorce and sole custody in the Kristianstad District Court in Sweden. On 14 November the Court made an interim order that the parents should retain joint custody, but that the child should live with the mother and see the father on a supervised basis for 4 hours on alternate weekends. This decision was upheld on appeal.
In 2006 an investigation was commenced into the custody of the child, but the District Court did not find the results to be satisfactory. On 2 July 2007 the District Court ordered that a company investigate the child’s living conditions in the Czech Republic. The report was to be submitted by 15 October 2007 at the latest. On 18 December 2007 the company advised that its attempts to carryout the investigation had been obstructed by the mother’s representative in Prague.
Procedural decisions were taken by the District Court in March 2008 and again in March 2010. On 27 July 2010 the District Court ordered that the mother have sole custody and the father contact on four consecutive days every month. The father’s applications to appeal this order were refused.
1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention
In December 2005 the father applied to the Swedish Central Authority for assistance in securing the return of his daughter. In May 2006 the Czech Central Authority requested that the father obtain an Article 15 Hague Convention declaration as to the wrongfulness of the mother’s removal of the child.
On 10 October 2006 the District Court in Kristianstad held that the mother’s retention of the child in the Czech Republic was not unlawful. In reaching this decision it had paid regard to its own interim custody order of November 2005. The father appealed this ruling, arguing that the District Court should have focussed on the actual removal of the child and not her retention. He submitted that the November 2005 order could not justify the removal retroactively.
On 19 December 2006 the father’s appeal was rejected, the Appellate Court finding neither the removal nor the retention of the child to be unlawful. On 1 February 2007 the father’s application to the Supreme Court was rejected.
Removal of the Child from the Population Register
On 11 September 2006 the child was removed from the Swedish population register on the basis that she had been living for over a year with the mother in the Czech Republic, and in the light of the District Court’s interim custody decision of 14 November 2005. The father’s appeals against this decision were rejected.
Application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECrtHR)
On 15 January 2007 the father filed an application with the ECrtHR in which he complained that the Swedish courts’ protracted custody proceedings, including their handling of his request for the return of his daughter under the Hague Convention, and the Tax Authority’s decision to remove his daughter from the population register, violated Articles 6, 8 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).