dad prepares for overseas custody battle

            Posted on September 18, 2016 

Dad prepares for overseas custody battle

Q. About three years ago, my wife and I decided to sell our house in Braintree and move to France with our three children so I could accept a job offer with an international organization. We hoped I’d stay with that company for the indefinite future.

In France, we leased a great apartment, enrolled our children in a French-American school, and I started my new job. We put our Braintree house on the market. When the buyer couldn’t get financing, we rented that house. Through my job, both my wife and I got job permits to work in France and we got the children cards that let them attend school. My wife also found a job.

Each summer, my wife took our children back to Massachusetts to stay with her parents. This year, being the fourth summer, instead of bringing the children back, my wife put the kids in Braintree schools and served with me with her complaint seeking the children’s sole legal and physical custody in Massachusetts. She’s claiming we never intended to stay in France for more than one year.

Can she succeed in this sneak attack?

A. There is a difference between winning a battle and winning a war. Right now you’re faced with the first battle - which you should win. Here’s how.

Hire a lawyer who is experienced in international kidnapping cases. That lawyer should prepare and file your detailed affidavit that spells out the facts. Equally important, attached to your affidavit should be copies of: your job offer, contract of your employment in France, job-cards issued to you and your wife; resident-cards issued to your children, lease for the French apartment, authorization to a Massachusetts real estate broker to sell and then rent your Braintree house, the offer made to buy that house, lease on the Braintree house, documents showing the work your wife was doing, and anything else that shows you all were well settled in France.

Also get certified translations of all French-language documents.

File your affidavit and documents with your motion asking the Judge to enforce the Massachusetts version of the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Act. The UCCJA requires that judge to return the children to France because their home state and domicile is there, not here in Massachusetts.

So whether that order is issued fast and easy, or after a knock-down dragged-out fight, you’ll win this first battle.

I’d expect your wife will immediately return to France, start a divorce case that asks that she get custody of the children. She’ll claim she’s their primary caretaker because you worked long hours. She’ll surely get her divorce. If she’s awarded primary custody, she’ll also ask to remove the children to the United States. And that is where your war will be won or lost.