Jewish News 7th January 2022

UK woman can’t have contact with twin sons, 12, after Austrian court ruling

Solicitor Beth Alexander loses bid to see her children in latest instalment of long-running saga, with judge ruling it would ‘not be in their best interests’

January 6, 2022, 5:03 pm

Beth Schlesinger (née Alexander) with her two children

A British Jewish woman has been told that she is to have no contact with her 12-year-old twin sons as a result of a new ruling by an Austrian court.

Beth Alexander, now a London-based family law solicitor, has been fighting her ex-husband, Dr Michael Schlesinger, in the Vienna courts, after the breakdown of their short marriage and the birth of the twins, Samuel and Benjamin.

After numerous unsuccessful court appearances — and even a debate in the House of Commons in 2014 — Ms Alexander decided to leave Vienna in 2016, in despair at her ex-husband’s alleged refusal to comply with even partial access or visitation rights.

She claimed psychological and physical abuse took place during their marriage; he denied this, but insisted she was mentally ill and thus unfit to take care of their sons, and was awarded sole custody by an Austrian judge, Susanne Gottlicher.

Ms Alexander’s appeals to the Austrian Jewish community did not succeed, either: she said because Dr Schlesinger was a man, and native-born, the community had “closed ranks” around him, rather than believe her, a British-born woman.

Incentivised by Brexit, Ms Alexander renewed her campaign on behalf of access to her sons through an independent body, the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit. It was established to enforce the Articles of the 1996 and 1980 Hague Convention.

But the case was kicked back to the Austrian courts, and the same judge who originally ruled against her, Judge Gottlicher, has now ruled that it would “not be in the best interests” of the children for her to have any contact with them.

It was also reported by the JC, that Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis went on a secret ‘mercy mission’ to Austria in 2018, in a bid to help Beth Alexander.

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