Mum gets custody, but child is abroad
By Rita Jong
SHAH ALAM: It was a bitter-sweet moment for businesswoman Elis Syuhaila Mokhtar yesterday after the Syariah High Court here awarded her custody of her 5-year-old son.
Tears flowed freely after the court delivered its decision but the 34-year-old mother's cries were not just tears of joy.
It has been nine months since she last saw or heard from her son Ferris Mokhtar Van de Ven after her estranged husband took him away. Father and son are now believed to be in Belgium.
"I have the court order now but what is the use if I can't find Ferris?" she cried. "The court order does not apply in Belgium. All I want is to hold him in my arms. I miss him so much."
Elis Syuhaila was embroiled in a child custody battle with her Dutch husband, Frank Theodorus Van de Ven @ Firdaus, 40.
The application for full custody was filed by Frank, a businessman, last year and both parties were granted joint custody of the child pending the disposal of the case yesterday.
|Elis Syuhaila Mokhtar, who was granted custody of her son by the Syariah High Court, holding her son’s passport. She is puzzled how her son could have been taken abroad without his passport. — NST picture by Che Rani Che Din|
In March this year, however, Frank failed to return their son to Elis Syuhaila. He was said to have told her that he wanted to take Ferris for a holiday in Penang but they never returned. That was the last time she saw her son.
"Ferris is a Malaysian. I am holding his passport. So how was he taken out of the country?" she asked.
"I abided by the court's order (for joint custody) when I let Frank take Ferris."
She said Ferris did not want to go with his father, but she persuaded him assuring him that everything would be all right.
"People comfort me by saying my son will come back, but when? Twenty or thirty years later?" she asked.
"Then what? What if he asks me 'Mummy, why didn't you come to find me?"
She said she kept Ferris' favourite toys in her handbag and never left home without it with the hope that she might bump into them on the streets.
During the hearing, Elis Syuhaila alleged that Frank did not practise the Muslim faith, often drank alcohol and was said to have also planted cannabis and poppy plants in his home in Belgium.
"The court is satisfied that the young child belongs with his mother. In a child custody case, parents must always remember that they have to provide a conducive place to raise the child.
"It saddens me that in most cases, whether the child goes with the father or mother, the child would end up with the family of the spouse most of the time."
Judge Abu Zaky Mohammed also said that it was worrying that the child was now with his father who did not practise the faith.
He, however, said both Elis Syuhaila and Frank were still married.
He also granted Frank visitation rights under Elis Syuhaila's supervision and ordered him to pay cost assessed by the court registrar.