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DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC Board certified Family Law Specialist*

Federal trial of international child custody dispute underway

Arizona readers may want to follow yet another international child custody dispute that is being heard by a federal court located in a northeastern state. This custody dispute dates back to 2006, when a Turkish court granted a divorce petition to the father of two children and awarded child custody to him. The mother, a United States citizen, subsequently fled the country in apparent defiance of the court order and ultimately returned to this country.

The father is said to have contacted Interpol and the U.S. Department of State shortly after the mother disappeared with the children. She acknowledges that she left Turkey clandestinely, with her parents paying someone $70,000 to arrange their travel to a Greek Island. She then travelled to Andorra, where she and the children lived incognito for more than two years. They were then granted passports by the United States solely to allow their return to this country. She says she suspected the father of sexually abusing the children, though a Turkish court apparently determined those allegations to be unfounded.

The mother and children have lived in New Hampshire since 2010. The father finally located them at the end of 2011. The federal trial that recently began will likely apply the provisions of the International Child Abduction of The Hague, a treaty to which the United States is a party. The judge hearing the custody dispute has already noted that the mother's actions constituted "manifestly illegal conduct." However, in determining what is appropriate under the circumstances, the court could determine that it is in the bests interests of the children to remain where they are.

As this case makes its way through the U.S. District Court in New Hampshire, it underscores the complexity that international child custody disputes can entail. Arizona residents facing similar issues would do well to arm themselves with knowledge of the applicable laws, both in this country and any other country involved in the proceedings. In the end, a court will typically determine these proceedings in the best interests of the children, though the interpretation of that general principle may vary depending on the laws and customs of the other country involved.

Source: ctpost.com, "NH trial to begin in international custody case," Jan. 22, 2013

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