International Child Abduction
Sweden's divorce rate is one of the highest in the world and for those with children the pain of a break-up can have devastating consequences. While many couples reach agreement over shared custody , increasingly for a sizeable minority, a bitter break-up can lead to a long battle for custody and visitation rights, and for the losing party, a decision by the family court can be difficult to accept.
In today's modern world, more and more couples have mixed nationalities and in some custody cases, a parent can take the extra drastic step of abducting their child back to their native country. The numbers are surprising.
In Sweden there are around 100 recorded cases of international child parent abduction every year, equally divided between kidnaps TO Sweden, usually by the mother, and kidnaps FROM Sweden, usually by the foreign born father. The true annual abduction figure though is said to be higher with many cases not actually reaching the authorities.
One abduction case involved George Pesor, who lived in Sweden for 12 years. An australian, he now resides back home in Melbourne with his two sons, whom he'd won sole custody of in a Family court in Sweden in 2004, following a bitter legal battle with his Swedish ex-wife whom he says accused him at the time of sexually abusing and trying to murder their children.
During twice yearly visitation rights agreed by the family court in Australia,under the Hague convention, the boys flew to Sweden to visit their mother for a third time in October 2008 but confirming the 42 year old father's worst fears that they would be kidnapped by his ex wife, Frank and Andre failed to show for their flight back to Australia.They'd been abducted by their mother. Due to lack of help from the authorities it was six months before George Pesor was to see his children again, when he took matters into his own hands.
George Pesor's traumatic experience is now out in a book, "not without my sons" written by swedish journalist and author Ingrid karlqvist who became interested in the case when the children were missing, through the blogosphere.
While most custody battles are messy, they don't end up with one parent illegally abducting their child abroad. However, for those parents, mostly fathers, who lose a custody case, access to see their child can still be a real problem in a country the size of Sweden. Inspired by Father's for justice in england, 38 year old Ulf Andersson from Småland founded the father's rights group, Papparättsgruppen, in response to what he sees as the gender bias against fathers in the custody courts. His daughter lives over 600 kilometres away and he hasn't seen her for years.