VILNIUS - After a two-year international custody battle, a Lithuanian woman has been forced to return her three-year-old daughter to the girl's German father.
The Collegium for Civil Cases of Lithuania's Supreme Court announced its ruling Aug. 25, rejecting an appeal that was filed by Inga Rinau of Klaipeda after the Court of Appeals ordered the return of her daughter to Germany.
Rinau had initially appealed to the court to counter a ruling by Germany's Oranienburg Court on her divorce case.
The ruling in Germany granted custody rights to the father, also obliging the mother to return the child to the care of her father. Rinau told The Baltic Times that this has been a grueling experience and the court's decision is hard to take.
"Of course I am disappointed. The father of my daughter left his family when the child was three months old. I was alone in a foreign country with a baby and my sick son. So I took the action that any mother would 's I went home to my family for help," she said in explanation of her actions.
Rinau's lawyer, Gintaras Balciunas of the Jurevicius, Balciunas & Bartkus law firm, told The Baltic Times that after the ruling in Germany, there was very little chance of winning the case. "I think in these last few cases, there was nothing new, nothing surprised us. After the Court of Justice, we had little chance to win," he said.
Rinau is angry with the Lithuanian authorities, who she says didn't do enough to keep her children together. The court ignored the report of a Lithuanian child psychologist about the damage to the girl if she left her mother and brother.
"I can't imagine what is going to happen to my children when they are separated from each other," she said. "My daughter came here when she was three months old and she only speaks Lithuanian. I don't know what she will do," she added.
While investigating the case, the Collegium of Lithuania's Supreme Court addressed the Court of Justice of the European Communities, requesting a prejudicial ruling regarding clarification of the relevant legislation.
According to the court's release, Lithuanian courts must follow prejudicial rulings. The Court of Justice of the European Communities ruled that there couldn't be any pleadings regarding a court's ruling, the implementation of which is consolidated by a certificate issued by the court.
The ruling of Lithuania's Supreme Court is final and cannot be appealed. Rinau is investigating other avenues of aid to reunite her children, including the European Commission for Human Rights.
The Rinau case was the first in Lithuania where the mother and institutions of the supporting country fought over the right of a child to live together with the mother.
Balciunas said the proceedings of the case were so drawn out because the case was without precedent. "It was new for the Lithuanian court system and for all institutions that deal with children," he said.
In any case, Balciunas saw the Lithuanian court procedures as a purely academic exercise because of the ruling made in Germany. "This is the regulation of the EU. Lithuania had very few instruments to use in this case," he said.
Inga Rinau moved to Germany to marry Michael Rinau with her son from her first marriage. She had her daughter in Germany.
In July of 2006, Inga Rinau left Germany together with her children for vacation in Lithuania, where she decided against returning due to the son's illness. However her husband objected to this and demanded that she return to Germany together with the children.
This March, Lithuania's Court of Appeals satisfied the request of Michael Rinau and ruled to have the daughter returned to Germany.
The process of returning his daughter to Germany was later put to a halt due to prolonged litigation regarding the renewal of the process. A scandal developed with politicians and lawyers taking it upon themselves to investigate whether officials properly represented the interests of the child.
The Lithuanian Parliamentary Human Rights Committee decided that the initial conclusion made by the State Child Rights Protection and Adoption Service under the Ministry of Social Security and Labor was detrimental to the child's well-being. The case of the child, Luisa Rinau, has also come to the attention of the European Commission, which requested that relevant Lithuanian institutions provide information on some circumstances of how this case was tried. The European Court of Justice ruled in July that Lithuania's courts prolonged the procedures for too long and failed to implement their own rulings in favor of returning Luisa Rinau to her father.
The Lithuanian Supreme Court addressed the European Court of Justice, which fast-tracked the decision. This is the first ruling of the European Court of Justice regarding powers of the courts of two countries of the European Union in a situation of this nature.