What follows is an overview written by Pennsylvania lawyer Barbara Mountjoy and appeared on her blog.
Justice: by the law or by the heart?
When you have brought up kids, there are memories you store directly in your tear ducts.
I’ve debated how to write this post for several days, and it’s been difficult. My role as attorney at law is to uphold the law. Most of the time, that also means to pursue justice. Sometimes these two goals don’t match. These are the hard cases.
I have a client (who has asked me to blog about his case), the victim of a biased judge and a vindictive ex-wife. For several years, the parties utilized the custody court in the state of Tennessee, because that’s where they lived, at first.
After they split up, the wife moved to Pennsylvania with their son, not bothering to get court permission to do so. My client, a high-powered computer consultant, then worked for Microsoft at points around the globe, without an address in the States. But the court awarded him summer and holiday visits with his son.
The mother denied him the right to visit several times thereafter. Although he applied to the FBI and other agencies, he was told they would not get involved in custody matters. (Those same agencies are now the ones prosecuting HIM.) He had to enforce his Tennessee order rights at the court in Pennsylvania, with the mother being held in contempt of court for violating the order.
After multiple findings of contempt, the judge in Tennessee finally gave my client primary custody and said he could take his son to live with him abroad. My client was then making fabulous money for Microsoft, but because the mother was afraid of something happening in the pro-Arab countries where my client was being sent, he quit his job (!) and became a freelance consultant instead. The child got the chance to experience living in many different places, at a much better standard of living, and better schooling and opportunities.
The summer of 2006 came, and he sent the child to stay with his mother, per the court order. Before the summer was over, she filed an emergency petition in Pennsylvania (even though the child hadn’t lived here for six months, as the law requires) to keep the child. Judge William White had said if Tennessee acted on the case, he would stay out of it, as federal law requires, and told her to put the child on the plane. The child went back to his father, as the court order required.
After that, however, the Pennsylvania judge reneged on his statement. He scheduled numerous hearings, despite our continued objection, which my client did not attend. We steadfastly and consistently opposed jurisdiction in Pennsylvania while a valid Tennessee order was in effect. He issued a bench warrant for my client for failure to appear, when he knew he had no jurisdiction in the first place. He granted the mother custody pending further hearing, despite the fact that Tennessee said it was holding jurisdiction during the minority of the child, and the fact that the child DID NOT LIVE IN PENNSYLVANIA.
So now my client has been the subject of a case for international kidnapping, with the FBI and various governments around the world involved. Most recently he was arrested in Bulgaria, and his passport revoked. He talks about his situation here. Interpol took his credit cards and passport; the credit cards have now been used by unknown persons as far away as London. WHILE HE WAS IN CUSTODY. They are treating him like he is a dangerous criminal, when all he is, is a father who wants some time with his son.
It is truly a sad story. The child has been listed with the National Clearinghouse for Missing and Exploited Children when mother knew very well where the child was. I bet he was even on a milk carton somewhere. The end of the story remains to be seen, but anything positive coming from it is hard to envision.
The really sad part of the story is that if the mother had held to the original terms of her court order and sent the child to visit his father as scheduled, my client would never have gone after primary custody. He was content to let his son live in the States then, and have splendid holidays overseas. But by constantly denying him visits, forcing him back into court to effectuate his orders, the mother created this situation where he had to get primary custody to be sure he’d see his son.
And now, he knows that if he sends his son back to visit, he’ll likely not see him again until the child is 18, because she has always refused to comply with their current Tennessee order, in the only court that truly has jurisdiction.
So, has he violated the language of an order? You can decide that for yourself. Has he done something wrong? I don’t think so. He’s been forced, as many parents are, into an untenable position because of the vindictive and selfish behavior of the other parent in a custody battle.
Who won here? Not the mother. Not the father. Not the son, because in either household at this moment, under these facts, he must be denied access to his other parent. Not the lawyers. Not the system. Not the FBI, attorney general’s office or NCMEC, spending thousands of taxpayers’ dollars on something that this mother could have made unnecessary. No one, really. No one.
Too bad Solomon died years ago; we could use his wisdom about now.