Weeks before he and the children were due to travel to his next posting, the diplomat’s ex-wife, who had come to New Zealand as part of the diplomatic household before their divorce, began emergency custody proceedings without notifying him. The courts were told the father planned to take the children overseas to a country the mother desperately explained she was unable to live in. But the mother, who had since remarried, wanted to keep the children here, which resulted in the courts confiscating their diplomatic passports so the custody argument could be heard. But the father’s frustration, detailed throughout leaked documented hearings, was that the entire household had diplomatic immunity from the outset. His argument was that their immunity status should have made the envoy family – and their passports – untouchable in our courts, a point upon which he was eventually proven right. But by the time that pivotal judgment was made, the entire household’s immunity had expired, meaning the battle over the children was allowed to rage on. Meanwhile, the father had to leave his children behind to take up his next international posting. He had been unable to visit them since, while he fought the case from abroad until the two-year legal battle ended last month, with the mother finally agreeing to send the children to their father. The custody case has been labelled Foreign Affairs’ latest “embarrassment”, following the high-profile case of a Malaysian envoy who left Wellington by claiming diplomatic immunity while facing sexual assault charges.
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