A COAST mother has vowed she won't turn her daughters into fugitives, despite facing the prospect of losing them in a bitter international custody dispute.
"I will not take my daughters and run," the distraught mother said through tears yesterday.
Her family is set to be ripped apart after the Family Court ruled she must put her four young daughters on a plane to Italy to live with a father she describes as "a physically abusive workaholic".
Although the mother-of-four acknowledged she had considered running and hiding, she said she wanted more for her children than a life on the run.
That may mean being forcibly separated from them at midnight Tuesday when she is legally required to put them on the plane at Brisbane Airport.
The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, fled Italy two years ago to escape a bad marriage. Her husband did not follow.
But just more than six months ago he started legal proceedings to try to gain custody of the children.
She said the girls, aged nine to 14, were "scared" to go and live with their father and refusing to go, even if it meant they would be physically taken from her at the airport.
She was shocked to learn the court had ruled in favour of her husband after she and the girls testified of his abusive past and how the children felt about the situation.
"The courts have not taken into consideration the feelings and wishes of my daughters," she said.
"I never imagined (my husband) would take this so far.
"He's had no genuine interest in the children since we moved to the Coast; he is only doing it to spite me."
Her husband pursued her, using Hague Convention child-abduction regulations. She lost her Family Court appeal in March.
Unable to pay for a lawyer to take on her case, she sought advice from Legal Aid,only to be told it would not represent her because it would mean going up against the Australian Government.
The mother, who moved to Italy when she was 15 to study Italian, married when she was 17.
She said it would be "akin to death" to lose her daughters and fears her husband would have her charged if she went to Italy to be near her girls.
"I know he will try to get me thrown in jail," she said. "I won't be much help to my kids in prison.
"It's not even about me. My children come first and the court should have listened to them."