Girls can live with mother in lead-up to High Court hearingAmy RemeikisJuly 6, 2012 - 4:54PMhttp://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/girls-can-live-with-mother-in-leadup-to-high-court-hearing-20120706-21l9i.html#ixzz1zrtegnR5
A Queensland judge has ordered four girls, embroiled in an international custody battle, can be returned to their mother until a High Court hearing next month.
They will be reunited with their mother at 7pm tonight.
The judge said he made the interim order with “great reluctance’’ and has granted the girls' father visitation rights. But he had been firmly persuaded on the balance that it was better for the children to be returned to their mother, rather than the four sisters remaining in foster care.
He was worried about the escalation and manifestation of the children’s mental and emotional distress at being separated from the parent who had been their primary carer since their parents’ separation in 2007.
The mother sobbed quietly as the judge made his order and the mother’s legal representative, Dr Jacoba Brasch, leaned over and squeezed her hand in support.
The judge granted the girls' father access from after school Fridays to 5pm Sundays on the weekends of July 13 and 20 and August 3 and 10. He will also have phone contact on Wednesdays between 7pm and 8pm.
The Department of Community Services will transport the children from their mother's Sunshine Coast home to where their father was staying in Ashgrove.
Earlier, the judge took aim at the “morons’’ who exposed four sisters to the media, saying those involved should be ashamed.
The case returned to the Family Court in Brisbane today, where applications surrounding legal representation and custody were under consideration.
The sisters say they want to remain in Australia with their mother despite an order by the Family Court to have them returned to their birthplace of Italy to have custody proceedings heard there, in accordance with the Hague Convention.
The custody battle, involving an Italian father and his Australian-born ex-wife, gained national media attention in May when the four girls went into hiding with a relative.
In court today, the girls’ mother has denied having anything to do with the children being secreted away or exposing them to the media.
The judge took aim at whoever was involved in exposing the four sisters to the media.
He said it had left the children open to being identified by their peers and the community, warning “when morons seek to involve children in disputes with their parents publicly’’ identification was one of the risks.
“They should hang their heads in shame,’’ he said.
The judge has already ruled the children can not have their own legal representation as their views had been heard in the documents before the court.
"There can, in my view, be no doubt that their voices are heard," he said.
The four sisters are currently in foster care but this matter was determined this afternoon.
Their mother applied to be restored as their primary carer or alternatively, for a maternal aunt to take on the role.
But the Department of Communities and Michael Wilson, the legal representative for the children’s father, opposed the application.
The Department of Communities argued the “lesser of two evils’’ was for the children to remain in foster care.
Mr Wilson attempted to make an oral application to have children stay with their father in Australia until their case is heard in the High Court on August 15.
This was rejected by the judge so the father’s legal counsel said they also believed remaining in foster care would be best.
Legal counsel for the mother, Dr Brasch, read part of a letter from one of the older children: “Dear someone, if you ask me there is nothing I want more in the whole world than just to be home with my mum and back at school with my friends again''.
She wished for a “miracle from God, Mary, Jesus and all the angels’’ to make that happen.
The mother cried in court as the parts of the letter were read out.
Dr Brasch pointed to affidavits from the department's case workers where the girls reported feeling nauseous, anxious and dizzy.
The same girl - who wrote the letter submitted today to court - refused to get on a plane to Italy, writing “foster care is changing who I am’’.
The judge said the role of the court was to determine what was best for the children and its primary concern was their welfare.
The judge’s biggest fear was that “these children, probably because of what they have been subjected to by whoever, may do something silly to draw attention to themselves’’ and “that frightens the life out of me’’.