During the eight years that Meri Martirosyan and Hayk Papyan were living together as common-law spouses (1999-2007), the couple had two children; Siranoush and Samvel.
While Hayk accepted that the children were his, he refused to register the marriage with the civil authorities.
Siranoush and Samvel were born with defects. The girl is confined to a wheelchair and the boy has autism.
Meri says it was because Hayk used to periodically beat her. The mother never reported the abuse, fearing that the family would be split up.
“I’d tell myself, if he hits me that means he loves me,” recounts Meri. She says Hayk would hit her just because she ate dinner without waiting for him.
Meri says that Hayk started a relationship with a female worker of his in 2006. In 2007, he left the family for good. In 2010, Hayk married the other woman and has a child from her.
Meri and the kids continued to live in a rental apartment for which Hayk paid. In the spring of 2011, Hayk refused to pay anymore rent.
Meri says that Hayk continued to hit her when he came to see the kids. As a result, she filed criminal charges and the court found Hayk guilty. He got away with paying a 40,000 AMD fine.
Last year, Hayk went to court seeking permission to see Siranoush and Samvel without their mother being present. Meri flatly refused. The father also wanted to take the kids on a one week vacation in the summer. The mother again protested.
At the behest of a Yerevan court, the local welfare agency looked into the matter and ruled that it would be all right for Hayk to see the children by himself, arguing that relations between the two parents was quite tense and could negatively impact the kids.
In the opinion of Anoush Hovhannisyan, the psychologist at the school attended by Siranoush and Samvel, the presence of the mother at the meeting of Siranoush and her father is highly recommended and her presence is vital when Samvel meets the father.
It turns out that Samvel displays aggressive behavior against his father.
Nevertheless, the welfare committee has set down visiting hours for Hayk. Meri, in turn, has sought the help of Armenia’s Human Rights Defender.
The court sustained its decision even though both children stated in court that they didn’t want to meet their father without their mom being present.
In social custody cases such as this, the court is obliged to take into account the wishes of minors over the age of ten.
The court has allowed Hayk to see the kids twice weekly for a total period of 6.5 hours.
Meri has since filed for alimony payments from Hayk.
She has also appealed the ruling of the lower court regarding Hayk’s visitation rights.
The mother says she’s willing to take the case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights before she lets the man who beat her visit the kids without her being there.