For eight years, a New York cab driver has been fighting for child custody rights to his 10-year-old son after the boy's mother took him to visit her relatives in the Ivory Coast in 2003 and never returned him. Just this Tuesday, the 46-year-old father finally celebrated the end of this international child custody dispute when his son entered the arrivals hall at Kennedy Airport.
"This is all I have been hoping for for eight years. The day has come," he said.
Interestingly, the mother was also "left behind" in this case. After establishing her son in the Ivory Coast, she returned to the United States and has apparently not seen her son in eight years, either.
She says she was overwhelmed by caring for her son at the time and asked her sister to raise the boy. She claims that the father agreed to the arrangement at the time. He disagrees, saying that he only agreed to the arrangement for a six-month period.
The bereft father began seeking his son's return immediately upon realizing that the boy would not be returning after six months. It has been a long and difficult road, especially since the Ivory Coast is not a party to the Hague Convention on International Parental Child Abduction, which can assist parents left behind when their child's other parent illegally removes the child to another country.
This left the father with very few options. Even if he were to obtain a court order for his son's return from a U.S. court, many nations that are not signatories to the Hague Convention do not follow foreign court orders.
Regardless, he decided to pursue child custody here and was scheduled for a hearing in December. Since then, with the assistance of a fathers' rights attorney, he was able to reach an agreement with the boy's mother which stipulated she would arrange for his return.
The 10-year-old boy, who only recognizes his father from Facebook photos, will now live with his father, along with a six-year-old sister whom he has never met. According to the terms of the agreement, the mother will have joint legal custody and visitation rights.
"Now, I can do my job," said the weeping father. "I can be his dad."
Source: New York Daily News, "Cabbie Eugene Pothy reunited with son stuck in international custody fight," Erica Pearson, Jan. 17, 2012