The last sign of life from Lucas is a photo of the boy with a bitten off bun in his hand. The child is sitting in front of a white wall, in front of him is a December edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. To this day, Christian H. does not know where the picture was taken. Only that his ex-wife sent him the picture after much pressure, almost four months after she disappeared with their son.
Every year in Germany there are more than 200 child abductions by one parent. In binational partnerships, the mother or father often takes the child with them to their home country. If this is known, the left-behind parent can try to get a return through the “Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction” (HKÜ) of 1980. But if the kidnapping target is permanently hidden, the only thing left is the search.
Christian H. has been cruising through the republic for six months now. He looked up relatives of the woman in the Münsterland who said nothing. He hired private investigators who found nothing. And he turned to authorities who either couldn’t do anything or didn’t want to do anything. Sometimes there was no responsibility, sometimes data protection stood in the way of a click in the database. A German family court ruled that the child’s welfare is at risk and that the father has the sole right to determine the place of residence.
On August 27, 2020, Chi-Man H. went into hiding with her two-year-old son – shortly before the youth welfare office wanted to hand Lucas over to the father’s care. A psychological report on the ability to bring up children found her to have Munchausen deputy syndrome. It is a form of mistreatment in which adults invent or cause illnesses for their children in order to be able to subsequently treat them. The Frankfurt am Main family court immediately issued a so-called surrender order (AZ: 458 F 12170/20 EAHK), but it was no longer possible for a bailiff to enforce it on September 1st.
The father filed a complaint on the same day (AZ: 3310 Js 240979/20). According to Section 235 of the Criminal Code, it is a criminal offense if a parent deprives a child or takes them abroad by force, threat or trickery. On September 11th, however, the Frankfurt public prosecutor’s office replied: “The preliminary investigation had to be discontinued in accordance with Section 152 (2) StPO, as there is currently no initial suspicion of the deprivation of minors within the meaning of Section 235 StGB.” Unlike the family court, the investigators saw no evidence that the mother might have fled abroad with the child.
In order to prevent emigration, the family judge at the Frankfurt am Main district court had asked the federal police for a search, but there were three days between the disappearance and the border block. “So there is a likelihood that the mother will meet on August 27th. moved abroad, probably to Hong Kong to her birth mother or her eldest brother, ”wrote Christian H. later. But the complaint to the General Public Prosecutor’s Office and the reference to the present decisions of the family court also remained ineffective. The law enforcement agency carried out page by page, which is why they do not see a ruse in the legal sense in the mother’s hiding.
Not an isolated case, say lawyers. Because unlike in France, where fathers or mothers face imprisonment if they leave the other parent in the dark about the child’s whereabouts for more than five days, in Germany the cases are viewed more as a family dispute. For the father’s lawyer, however, the public prosecutor’s inaction is a violation of the principle of legality. “The public prosecutor’s office here gives the impression,” said the father’s lawyer, “that she does not want to deal with children’s stuff”.
Meanwhile, the mother opposed the family court hearings. Her lawyer let her know that she feared a police operation at a hearing to take the child away from her. The lawyer said nothing about the whereabouts of his client. Relatives of the woman in Germany also pretended to be ignorant. The job center refused to provide the father with information for reasons of data protection. The Hessen Familienkasse, which transfers the child benefit to the woman on a monthly basis, stated that the mother had credibly demonstrated that she lived with the child and was usually in Germany. When examining the claim, the only thing that matters – regardless of court decisions – is the actual factual household budget, writes a clerk. If the child is no longer illegally staying with the mother in the future, the man can submit a new application.
The months of disregard for the decisions of the family court led a few weeks ago that the judge of the district court turned to the investigative authorities. In a letter to the public prosecutor’s office, the family court wanted to know what had been investigated in the case so far. In addition, the judge urged the Frankfurt police in an express letter to finally determine the whereabouts of Lucas H., as there would be an acute risk to the child’s welfare.
Upon request, the Frankfurt am Main public prosecutor’s office defended its decision that it had not done anything so far. If there are new indications, the initiation of a preliminary investigation would be re-examined, explains the Public Prosecutor’s Office. But this could be too late for the father. In the case of a two-year-old child, a habitual residence at the new place of residence can be assumed after about six months, the higher regional court in Karlsruhe ruled. If the mother and Lucas fled to Hong Kong last summer, a return should hardly be possible despite the Hague Agreement.
What if the woman with the child is still in Germany? Christian H. recently went to a bailiff with the decisions of the family court, who actually only asked one question: What is the mother’s address?