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TV Doco: Give My Children Back

Filed under: Law & Courts — JohnPotter @ 3:26 pm Mon 27th March 2006


International tug-of-love stories that will break your heart

Thursday, April 6th at 8:30pm TV3

Inside New Zealand: Give My Children Back looks at two dramatic international custody disputes and how they are resolved under the Hague Convention.

In an age of cheap travel and the “global village”, international relationships are on the rise. But hooking up with a partner from another country comes with some serious risks when children are involved.

When relationships break down, the result is often an international ‘tug-of-love’.

This documentary discovers serious discrepancies in the way that such cases are handled by different countries.

In January 2005, New Zealander Stephen Jelicich went on the run with his daughter Caitlin creating headlines around the world.

Stephen’s Welsh wife Diane and the British Government applied for an order for the return of Caitlin to Wales under the Hague Convention.

Stephen argued that Diane was a “grave risk” to Caitlin based on a history of depression, self-harm and violence.

The Jelicich saga became a media sensation. This documentary is the only production to film the story of what happened to the family after the Hague Convention decision, with never-before-seen footage.

Plus Inside New Zealand: Give My Children Back covers the tragic story of Ian, a trained teacher from Mt Maunganui, whose Swiss wife took their two sons on a holiday to Switzerland in 2002, then refused to bring them home again.

Shot over eighteen months, the documentary follows Ian’s battle for their return in an emotional journey to Switzerland to see his sons —now aged eight and ten, for the first time in three years.

When his legal battles began, Ian and his lawyer invoked the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction — an agreement which New Zealand and Switzerland have both signed.

The guiding principle of the Convention is that children should be returned to their country of residence for custody disputes to be resolved — and quickly.

However this didn’t happen in Ian’s case.

There is a clause in the Hague Convention that says children may not be returned if there was a grave risk that to do so would expose them to physical or psychological harm; or would place the child in an intolerable situation.

Ian had suffered from what was diagnosed as moderate clinical depression. It’s a condition experienced by one in five New Zealanders, yet his wife used this to argue that he was a grave risk to their sons.

His lawyer Stephen Coyle says the wife had no official reports on Ian’s mental health but “proved’ her case through “mud-slinging” or the testimonies of friends.

However on the basis of this grave risk argument, and on a second argument that Ian’s application for the children’s return was submitted too late, the Swiss courts rejected Ian’s application.

Tune in to find out what happens in these two heart-breaking ‘tug-of-love’ stories on Inside New Zealand: Give My Children Back,
screening Thursday, April 6th at 8:30pm on 3.


  1. In the New Zealand Listener promo for this program, Sarah Barnett sums up one father’s experience nicely:

    Ian goes through every channel he can think of, relying on the Hague convention that states that custody hearings must take place in the children’s country of birth. Unless, of course, the might be some harm to the children, at which point the vindictiveness that characterises these cases revisit said: Ian has suffered from severe depression, has wife’s lawyers assert. For example, there was the time he reacted badly to his kids being taken away.

    Comment by JohnP — Wed 29th March 2006 @ 2:44 pm


    International tug-of-love stories that will break your heart

    This is going on in New Zealand too you know, only 8 years since I had any contact with my son in New Zealand
    & $36, 000.00 child support payments, just more media sensationalism because its international, not impressed by the New Zealand media at all.

    Comment by cwb — Tue 4th April 2006 @ 5:10 pm

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