Boy, 11, reunited with father after spending THREE YEARS in orphanage
EXCLUSIVE: British boy, 11, is reunited with his father after spending THREE YEARS in Middle East orphanage during his parents’ bitter custody fight
- James, 11, was reunited with his emotional father at London’s Heathrow Airport
- He was taken to an orphanage in 2017 after he refused to live with his mother
- His father, Charles, 42, is fighting to win back custody of his two other children
A British boy has been reunited with his father after spending three years trapped in in a Middle East orphanage while his parents fought over who had custody of him.
The boy’s father Charles said being able to hug 11-year-old son James was the ‘best present ever’ after a complex legal battle with his French ex-wife was finally settled.
The emotional moment when the boy ran into his father’s arms at London’s Heathrow Airport was caught on camera by his delighted family.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Charles, 42, said: ‘Words cannot describe what it feels like to have my son back home with me.
Charles has been reunited with his son James after three years apart. James, 11, has been living in an orphanage since 2017 after refusing to live with his ‘abusive’ mother
Charles, 42, said: ‘Words cannot describe what it feels like to have my son back home with me’
‘The custody battle has cost me over £500,000 and at times my sanity, but I was never going to give up on my son.
‘It is such a relief that I have him home with me and we can try and re-build our lives. This should never have taken so long but for the lies told by my ex-wife.’
James’s ordeal began in August 2017, when, then aged nine, he was unwittingly used as a pawn in his parents’ bitter custody battle.
Living with his father in Dubai after his parents’ divorce in 2015, a court in France awarded his mother Ludvine, 37, full custody of the boy.
The father and son were torn apart in 2017 after a court in France awarded full custody to James’ mother, Ludvine
But when French officials arrived in Dubai to take him back, James refused to get on the plane because he was fearful of his ‘abusive’ mother.
As the two warring parents battled it out, he was taken to an orphanage ‘with only the clothes he stood in’ where he languished for the next three years.
Following a drawn out fight spanning three countries this month, another French court overruled the original decision and gave Charles full custody of his son.
After their emotional meeting, James told MailOnline: ‘I am super happy. This is the most relaxed I have been for years. Now I am really excited and looking forward to the New Year with my dad.’
Charles, from Northumberland, England, said: ‘James was adamant that he did not want to live with his mother, and I was not going to send him back. He was scared of her having suffered verbal and physical assaults.’
Charles added: ‘I would have gone to prison for my son, but I would not have been any use to him there.
‘James had made it very clear that he did not want to live with his mother and the authorities in Dubai refused to force him to live.
‘My ex-wife was so vindictive that she let him stay alone in an orphanage rather than be me. It is unreal how she could do that to her son but showed the sort of person she was.’
As the two warring parents battled it out over custody, James was taken to an orphanage ‘with only the clothes he stood in’. This month, another French court overruled the original decision and gave Charles full custody of his son
James was eventually placed with a foster couple and in July flew back to the UK after his mother told him he would be allowed to stay with his father.
But instead, her lawyers went to the Family Division of the High Court in London and they enforced the French ruling that she had custody and he was taken to France.
Charles said: ‘Just a couple of days after he arrived back James was physically assaulted by his mother.
‘He ended up in hospital and the authorities refused to release him back into the care of his mother.
Charles and James were reunited at London’s Heathrow Airport, before returning to the family home in Northumberland
‘For years I had been telling the courts that she was violent towards him, but they would not listen. They would also not listen to James. His views were never taken into consideration.
James was kept in the psychiatric wing of the Arles hospital near Marseille while social workers reviewed his case.
In her interview, Ludvine admitted that she ‘beats’ her children as it was accepted in her culture.
James told social workers he feared her and only wanted to live with his father.
In awarding Charles custody, the judge said James had been a ‘powerless onlooker of a chaotic family story in which his deep needs have never been heard.’
Meanwhile Charles, who, after the ruling, met James at the airport and whisked him back to the family home in Northumbertland, blasted the lack of support from the British social services.
Despite having his son home, Charles has yet to see his two other children who live with their mother in France
‘James was tricked into the taking the flight and was expecting to be me,’ he said.
‘Instead he was held for 12 hours and even though I was at the airport not allowed to see him.
‘He was put into a foster home for three days and then three people from a specialist company took him to France. In my opinion he was kidnapped as this was against his will.
‘If the authorities had listened to James and allowed him to have a voice then this might not have taken so long.
‘My ex-wife lied and lied to the courts and they believed her. I have only my son’s interests at heart.’
‘He is still very fragile from the trauma of what has happened to him in the last couple of years, but he is getting better all the time,’ he said.
Despite having his son home, Charles has yet to see his two other children who live with their mother in France.
‘I have had no contact with them for almost two years. My fight to see them will continue, he added.
Charles’s lawyer Toby Cadman said: ‘This has been an incredibly long battle for Charles, and I am delighted that he has been reunited with his son.’
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