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International Child Custody Depends on Best Interest of the Child

A mother, who sought asylum in the United States, recently won an international child custody suit against her 8-year-old daughter's father. The mother and daughter came to the United States from Lebanon in violation of a Lebanese child custody agreement, and a Massachusetts Appeals Court ruling will allow the mother to keep custody of her daughter and will allow the pair to remain in the United States. The court found that a Lebanese court order was not in the best interest of the child.

The mother and father of this case married in 2001 in Lebanon and had their only child in 2002. The couple then divorced in 2004. A Lebanese court awarded the mother custody of the couple's daughter and gave the father visitation rights. Two years later, the mother took the daughter and left Lebanon in violation of the Lebanese child custody order. The mother was given asylum in the United States and eventually settled in Massachusetts. The father filed a suit in a Lebanese court, and the court made a ruling that ordered the return of the daughter to Lebanon. The Lebanese court then ordered an arrest warrant for the mother.

The father then filed a lawsuit in a Massachusetts Probate Court to enforce the Lebanese court order, and the court dismissed the father's petition. The Massachusetts Appeals Court upheld the lower court's dismissal explaining that the child should not be punished for the mother's violation of the Lebanese child custody agreement. The court went on to explain that the child's welfare is the most important consideration and the Lebanese court order did not demonstrate that the child's return to Lebanon would be in the best interest of the child. Instead, the Lebanese court order argued the child should be returned only because the mother was in violation of the child custody agreement.

Source: Boston Herald, "Mass. Mother Wins Foreign Custody Spat," Kyle Cheney, 1/1/11

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