Translated from the German by Walter Schneider
Stuttgarter Zeitung – Germany
January 24, 2002
A mother abducts her own child – the father commits suicide.
For years the case was shuffled back and forth between courts in Stuttgart, now a spokesman admits: We have to learn something from that.
A judicial battle that lasted for years in Stuttgart courts found a sad end. A 43-year-old German-American took his own life in Paris, Texas – apparently because he could not get to see his son anymore.
By Susanne Janssen
The judicial fight was shuffled for years between the Lower Court in Stuttgart and the Higher Regional Court. According to the Higher Regional Court spokesman Joachim Saam, the story has to be a lesson for the courts. “It is a tragic matter that we regret very much,” he said. It shows how a constitutional state can be subverted. [The word was “unterwandert,” but that translates to infiltrated and makes little sense, or does it? Infiltrated by what, by evil?]
It all began with his wedding, January 2, 1999, in Paris, Texas: The then-40-year-old Stefan F. (not his real name), who emigrated in 1985 with his family from Ditzingen [Germany] to the USA, married the German Angela F., who already had a 16-year-old son from her first marriage. On May 13 their common son was born prematurely. He was hydrocephalic, had to undergo several surgical operations and is handicapped.
The marriage fell apart. September 10, 1999 Angela F. moved out, although the American Courts granted the father access to his son. At the end of the year Angela F. wanted to make a two-week trip to Germany, which the courts allowed her to do. To compensate for the absence, Stefan was to be allowed to have his son upon his return for 14 days in his care.
It never came to that: Instead of flying back to the USA on January 7, 2000, Angela F. didn”t leave until January 4, to hole up in Obersulm under cover of a false name. According to the Hague Convention, after a year the interval expires during which the orphaned parent still can demand his parental rights. “That is an emergency brake for the well-being of the child, so that he doesn”t have to be handed over to a totally estranged parent,” explains Saam.
However, Stefan F. still managed in time to find out the whereabouts of his ex-wife. On February 20 his lawyer [a woman] filed the motion for the return of his child. The proper venue for that was the Lower Court in Stuttgart, as one of 24 central offices. The journey through all of the instances began: On March 21 Angela F. got ordered by the Lower Court to return no later than April 30 to the USA. Resorts to force were merely threatened by the Court – because a small child was involved. Angela F. appealed the decision. On June 19 both parents reached an agreement in the Higher Regional Court: The woman committed herself to apply for visas for the USA. As a counter-offer Stefan assured her free travel and accommodation.
“We know today that the woman never intended to comply with the agreement,” says Saam. She had had only played for time. And that if anybody deliberately intends to subvert a court decision, the Court could do little about it. “It wouldn”t have helped at all to order a bond or detention,” opines der spokesman. That would only serve to change intentions. However, how should one effect a departure? The woman alleged that she had not been able to obtain a visa, or that the child was supposed to be sick, or that allegedly she still had to nurse him. “The only solution would have been to apply brute force and to put the woman on a plane.” But that would first have had to be ordered. And a motion to that extent would have had to have been filed.
That”s what [Stefan”s] lawyer did, too – but on December 3 the Lower Court rejected that motion. The woman was said to be unable to obtain a visa, and, besides, that it had surfaced that she had no intention to ever stick to the agreement. Therefore the agreement was said to be without substance, that all would have had to be decided anew.
On January 8 Stefan F.”s lawyer registered a complaint about that, “eventually or later that man would surely have received his rights,” says Joachim Saam. However, news about the latest complaint [on his behalf] no longer reached him. According to his parents, January 7, 2002 Stefan drove into the fields at Lake Gibbon. He left two farewell-letters: “Dear Parents! I no longer believe that I”ll get G.. Mrs. R. [the lawyer] can offer her congratulations to the German Courts!” And a day later, “Yesterday, every time when I wanted to pull the trigger, I saw you in front of my eyes,” he wrote. “Father tried during the past few months to get me, through work, to think of different matters, but I simply can”t forget G.. I wish I could make it easier for you.”
The news triggered great shock at the chamber of the Higher Regional Court. “We certainly would have been able to straighten things out, but, naturally, that takes time,” says Saam. “Individuals can torpedo the whole judiciary administration. Because jurisprudence is based on the fiction that the litigants submit to the Court.” To what extent the play for time brings advantages sometimes would be indicated by the lately concluded case of “shoe-king” Mayer: With perpetually new motions, the court-process then doesn”t end. Until all participants, the Court too, become worn down and make an agreement. Saam: “It is not always the good that”s victorious.”
Posted [at the Website of the Stuttgarter Zeitung]: 2002 01 25, 05:33 hrs