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International Child Custody Dispute Resolved in the U.S.

An eight-month long international child custody dispute appears to have been resolved for now, leaving one parent facing federal charges of international parental kidnapping.

The dispute arose last summer between two Italian parents. The parents had been married in Italy and then divorced in 2004. They shared joint custody of their two children, a 13-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. The relationship was amicable and the parents had been on good terms for the past seven years. 

However, things changed last August when the wife decided she wanted to relocate to Texas where she has family. Her new husband also sold his Italian home and moved with her. She claims that the father of the girls agreed to the plan. The father, however, claims that the mother said she was taking the children on a one-week vacation to the Red Sea.

Although the father was contacted and told of the children's whereabouts when they arrived in Texas, he claims their mother assured him that she would return before the Italian school year began. Instead, she had her attorney file a petition to the Italian court to modify their custody arrangement to provide that she could have primary custody of the children in Texas during the school year.

This petition was denied and an Italian judge ordered the mother to return to Italy with the children. When she refused, the father hired a Texas attorney to file a proceeding in Texas to enforce the Italian court's order. The mother and her husband then fled to Mexico with the children before finally settling in Florida. An Italian judge ordered the mother to be captured and extradited to Italy. U.S. marshals complied and have arrested both the mother and her husband on charges of international kidnapping.

With the help of the Italian consulate, the father has been reunited with his children. A Florida family court judge ruled that the Italian court has jurisdiction over the child custody case and allowed the father to return home with the children to Italy.

Source: Saint Petersburg Times, "Chapter of international custody dispute written in Tampa," Alexandra Zayas, 26 April 2011 

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