Jewish Telegraph 06.12.2013

Children all that matter

For the past year or so the Jewish Telegraph has highlighted the tragic plight of Mancunian Beth Alexander who has been denied custody of her four-year-old twin sons by an Austrian court. Beth is married to a Viennese doctor from whom she has been separated for nearly four years. They are divorced only in Jewish law. Her husband has custody of the children, a judicial decision which was based originally on a flawed psychiatric report on Beth which suggested that she was mentally ill but which has since been superseded by accurate assessments entirely contradicting the previous conclusions.

Despite this, an Austrian judge has still insisted that the twins should remain with their father since they are settled in his home. The children are said to be a year behind in their development and suffered from rotten teeth — at the age of three. Those who have met them describe them as extremely withdrawn. And yet, thus far, the courts cannot be moved.

We do not have the necessary skills, seek to make a judgement on the father, to suggest what is best for the youngsters and do not claim to have superior knowledge of the law to that of the Austrian judiciary. But this is not even a case of legalities. It is one of common-sense.

This young mother is caught up in a seemingly never-ending nightmare from which no-one — rabbis, lawyers or social workers — can seem to release her. It is hard to accept that a civilised, democratic European country like Austria can allow this dreadful miscarriage of justice to continue.

Whatever the eventual forthcoming supreme court decision, Beth should at least be allowed to present the full facts of her case with her children being assessed independently beforehand. This she has never been able to do, other than at the original custody hearing. At least with the benefit of accurate expert testimony, judges could then determine what is best for the two toddlers. After all, is that not the over-riding consideration in this sorry situation?


Jewish Telegraph 6th Dec 2013

Jewish Telegraph 6th Dec 2013

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