Joint Legal Custody Means No International Removal of Minor Children Without Written Consent

In a divorce action, the Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Fairfield, Middlesex Regional Family Trial Docket at Middletown awarded joint legal custody of the minor children and found the father in contempt of previously issued court orders. It further prohibited the parties from removing the children from the country without the written agreement of both parents, after one threatened to do so.

The plaintiff mother and defendant father were married in July 1993 in New Rochelle, New York. They had two minor children together, and resided in Trumbull, Connecticut, for at least one year prior to the dissolution of the marriage. The mother endured years of abuse – both verbal and physical – by the father, whose behavior was deemed the cause of the breakdown of the marriage. The mother filed for dissolution of the marriage in June 2008, and a pendente lite order was issued in August 2008. This order required the father to make monthly payments (unallocated as well as a portion of income from the father’s rental property in Stratford). In addition, assets were subject to automatic orders while the matter was pending.

After the father was served with the dissolution of marriage papers, he transferred the title of his new truck to his brother. The father brought installments of $10,000 in cash with him whenever he visited family in Egypt. In March 2010, he depleted and closed a SEP account and gave the money to his brother, sister, and roommate, citing repayment of “personal debts,” and made significant withdrawals from his 401(k) account. Particularly disconcerting, after the dissolution proceedings commenced, the father told the mother he would take the children with him to Egypt and that if she was good, she would be allowed to see them. This caused the mother great anxiety that she would not be able to get the children back into her custody.

While the trial court heard the matter of marriage dissolution, both parties sought some form of joint custody, and the mother sought a finding of contempt with respect to the husband’s transfer of assets in violation of the automatic orders. The trial court awarded joint legal custody and found the father in contempt of automatic orders with the disbursement of assets. In addition, the court stated that neither party could remove the children from the United States without a written agreement signed by both. It found that the mother’s concerns were reasonable, since Egypt is not a signatory of the Hague Convention On Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, making return of the minor children significantly difficult.

When pursuing dissolution of marriage, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced family law practitioner. Should you have questions regarding matrimonial matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.