Turkish court to apply New Zealand law in custody case

Saturday, September 18, 2010

WELLINGTON - A Turkish court to hear the custody case of a three-year-old New Zealand boy will apply the law of this country to decide in the case, a media report said Saturday.

Dylan’s Turkish-born mother Nil, a New Zealand citizen, took him to Istanbul in May 2007 when he was four months old but never returned, New Zealand Herald reported on its website.

The couple had met in Auckland in 2000 and married in 2005.

The unusual hearing before the Istanbul Family Court looms as pivotal in the three-year struggle by Auckland publisher Bruce Laybourn to have his son Dylan returned to Auckland.

Laybourn’s Turkish lawyer will put before the court a New Zealand parenting order granted in June awarding custody of the boy to the father.

He had spent thousands of dollars to maintain contact with his son while battling through the courts to bring him home.

In an appeal to the Turkish Supreme Court last year, his Turkish lawyer managed to overturn a divorce ruling and custody order in the mother’s favour, issued in his absence by the Istanbul Family Court.

The appeal successfully argued that New Zealand law should have been applied. The rehearing is scheduled for Sep 30.

If Laybourn wins, he is offering to meet the costs of resettling his wife in Auckland so she can maintain contact with Dylan.

But he has again run into problems getting officials to provide a formal explanation to the Istanbul court of how New Zealand’s custody and divorce statutes are applied.

In Turkey, custody is rarely awarded to the father, whereas New Zealand’s Care of Children Act is officially neutral about the suitability of either parent.

Intervention this week by the MP for Auckland Central, Nikki Kaye, prompted action, and Laybourn hopes to send officially sealed documents to Istanbul next week so they can be translated for the hearing.

His New Zealand lawyer, Alex Witten-Hannah, is drafting an “affidavit of applicable law” to accompany the Justice Ministry documents.

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