A landmark child custody case has left a Czech mother in sole possesion of her son. A Prague Court ruled that a Czech citizen, Veronkia Horvathova, who had kidnapped her 4 year-old son from is father, Pablo Santana, would be given full custody of the child. This is the first time in Czech history that the Child Abduction Section of the Hague Convention has been used to grant custody to a parent who kidnapped a child. The dispute began in 2005 when Santana filed for divorce in California after his wife claimed he had assualted her and her son in their San Francisco home. The California court awarded custody to Ms. Horvathova, but did grant visitation rights to Mr. Santana.
The mother was not satisfied with the court decision and asked advice of the Czech consulate in Los Angeles. They suggested the boy and herself would have greater protection if they both returned to the Czech Republic. She left the country and returned home. Mr. Santana went to a California court which awarded him custody of the boy. He then went to the Czech Republic where lower courts granted him custody. However, the Prague 5 District Court over-ruled those decisions and gave her full custody of the boy. In its decision, the Court ruled the child’s welfare must take precedence over any other factor and in this situation being with his mother was in his best interests. The Office for the International Legal Protection of Children has offered to work out visitation rights for Mr. Sanatana but he has refused to go along with this proposal.