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Lawyers call for end to child-snatching custody tactics

Agencies | Updated: 2016-12-30 07:38

Dai Xiaolei last saw her son in 2014, when he was 17 months old and living with her in-laws in Baoding, a city in Hebei province about 156 kilometers from Beijing.

Her marriage was crumbling and, as relations deteriorated, she claims her husband's family blocked her from taking her son with her back to the capital.

"The last time I saw my son was at the end of this alley. It's like a fortress," the 37-year-old said outside her in-laws former home.

Reuters was unable to independently verify Dai's claim that the family has blocked all attempts to see her son.

Her husband, Liu Jie, filed for divorce, arguing that the marriage had fallen apart due to "conflicts in character, ideas and living habits", according to court documents. Dai pushed for custody, but in April, a judge ruled that it was best for the boy's physical and mental health to stay with his father.

Liu, a movie stunt coordinator, and his parents declined to comment.

As China's divorce rate rises, so too have calls by legal professionals for new laws that would clamp down on aggressive tactics used by some parents to take or retain possession of a child to gain the upper hand in custody battles.

Lawyers say judges tend to favor the parent who already has physical possession of the child in order to avoid further disruption to their life.

Dai appealed the custody ruling and lost. The court said the child's living environment was relatively stable and any change would not benefit his upbringing.

There are no laws against one parent taking sole possession of a child against the wishes of the other, lawyers say, reflecting a traditional view that family conflicts should handled privately.

The Supreme People's Court declined to comment on specific cases, but it said, "Maximizing benefit to the child is the basic principle by which custody decisions are made."

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