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Custody clash father tells why

An Auckland father at the centre of an international custody dispute has told his family he is hiding with his 5-month-old daughter because of an “unfair” court decision to award custody to her mother.

Police yesterday appealed for 39-year-old Stephen Paul Jelicich to contact them and hand over baby Caitlin, following a request by Interpol.

But Stephen Jelicich’s father, Paul, last night told the Herald that his son would give himself up in exchange for a new custody hearing.

Paul Jelicich said Stephen and his wife arrived home at the end of October for a family holiday in Kumeu, West Auckland.

The relationship, which he described as “volatile”, soured during the visit.

“She said [to Stephen], ‘I’m going to Wales and taking Caitlin with me and there’s not a thing you can do about it, and I don’t want you to come back’.” Mr Jelicich said his son took advice from police and lawyers and sought custody of his daughter.

The case went to the Family Court before Christmas but was adjourned until January 10.

Mrs Jelicich applied for an urgent hearing and it was granted on January 6, when the court declared the case should be heard in Britain, where Caitlin was born, and awarded the mother custody.

Stephen Jelicich claimed the custody hearing was rushed and “all he wants is his day in court”, said his father.

“Nothing was done right,” said his mother, Jan Jelicich.

“He was supposed to be given 48 hours’ notice [of a hearing] but because it was going to be Christmas Day he was given 24 hours.”

Mr Jelicich snr said his son was a “good father” but “the system let him down” and running was his only option.