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International parental abduction has happy ending

When one parent abducts a child, leaving the other parent behind in order to avoid the child custody laws of the child's natural home, this can cause much pain for all parties, especially for the child who is denied access to the parent who is left behind.

Such was the case for an Ivory Coast native whose 6-year-old daughter was kidnapped by her father and his family while on a visit to the Ivory Coast.

The little girl was born in North Carolina in 2004. In June of 2010, the woman, her husband and her daughter traveled to the Ivory Coast. Unfortunately, during the trip, the husband abandoned her and sent their daughter to live with his sister. The girl's mother was denied access to her daughter and was threatened if she were to attempt to contact or visit her daughter.

Generally, the state that will have jurisdiction over a child custody proceeding is the state in which a child lived with a parent for six months prior to the child custody proceeding.

Although in this case it would be true that the child's home state was North Carolina because she spent most of her life there, this was only true absent the kidnapping.

However, a North Carolina court called this a temporary absence and agreed that North Carolina had jurisdiction. As a result of concern for the little girl's safety, the court granted temporary custody to the mother and ordered the father to appear with his daughter before the court.

The father who had been living in Pennsylvania did appear, but not with their daughter. After being held in contempt of court, he was again ordered to produce his daughter. A few weeks later, the daughter was located.

The daughter was returned to her mother almost exactly one year after the two were separated. A final child custody determination will still need to be made, but it is unlikely that the father will be awarded custody because of his actions.

This story is important for Texas parents who may be facing complex child custody disputes as it highlights that the legal system in the United States is focused on what is in the best interest of the child. Such a focus tends to yield fair and reasonable child custody arrangements for all parties.

Source: New York Law Journal, "Case That Reunited Mother, Daughter Spanned 3 States, 2 Continents," Laura Haring, Nov. 1, 2011

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