A New Jersey mother has finally been reunited with her two daughters. This came after an international child custody battle that began in August.
She and her now-estranged husband are the parents of two little girls, ages three and four. Though the parents were separated, the family traveled together in August to the husband’s home country of Tunisia to visit relatives for the benefit of their children.
During the trip, the mother became very sick and wanted to return home to New Jersey. Her husband, who is a citizen of both Tunisia and the United States, would not allow her to take the girls back with her. Under Tunisian law she had no legal recourse.
An international a child custody dispute arose, which could have triggered the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction except that Tunisia is not a signatory to that treaty.
Working with other family members. an attorney and the U.S. embassy in Tunisia, the mother worked with the Tunisian courts and was eventually able to obtain custody of the children. That did not end the matter, however. She then had to fight a second battle to obtain permission to leave Tunisia with the children.
Again with the help of an experienced family law attorney and the embassy, she was finally able to obtain that permission, and now the whole family is back home living in New Jersey, although the husband is now living in a separate residence.
The couple has now filed for divorce in New Jersey. Child custody will be among the most important issues in the divorce, as is often the case when a parent is a citizen of another country. It will be critical to ensure that the father does not take the children to Tunisia in the future with the intention of using that country’s father-centered laws in an attempt to gain custody.
Source: Asbury Park Press, “Jackson mother reunited with daughters after custody fight with Tunisian husband,” Dec. 1, 2011