On 20/20 last night with Chris Cuomo, two stories of American fathers whose sons were caught up in the labyrinthine Italian legal system were highlighted. Both fathers were desperate to get their children back but had to jump through more hoops than infiltrating the KGB. It was basically an interesting freshman piece for Chris that touched in issues germane to this blog. Here is a description of Chris’ report from www.abcnews.com:
For most Americans, a trip to Italy would mean a romantic getaway or a vacation to take in the sights. But not for 48-year-old Michael McCarty, who has made more than 15 trips to Italy over the past two years, desperately trying to bring his eight-year-old son Liam back to the United States. His ex-wife, Manuela Antonelli, abducted Liam and took him to her native country more than two years ago. He has been at the center of an international custody dispute ever since. And, 28-year-old Brandon Henry is trying to unite with his son who he has never met. His pregnant fiancée fled to Italy with their yet-to-be born boy and abandoned him in a convent shortly after his birth. The Italian government has kept father and son apart for over a month, raising and dashing Brandon’s hopes repeatedly. Cuomo has been following both cases for more than half a year.
In the case of Michael McCarty, his ex-wife accused him of sexually abusing the child Liam. This is a classic move by a lot of women after a divorce when they want to keep the ex husband away from the kids. They allege that he molests his own children. The New York courts investigated the McCarty case and all the allegations and found that they were without merit. During the investigative process, the father was divested of custody and only received supervised visitation with the child. After the investigation, his full visitation rights were restored. But then, he tried to move for full custody on the basis that (rightfully so) the mother was unfit since she was basically alienating the child, and harming him psychologically with these putrid allegations.
Make a long story short, before the custody case could be heard, the mother took off to Italy with the child and the father has been fighting to get his son back ever since. After years in the Italian judicial system, the mother was finally adjudicated unfit by the Italian courts (this was after a stint of the courts placing the child in foster care even though the father had an order of custody from the American courts) and she basically has disappeared with the child somewhere in Italy. Nobody knows where to find her.
This sort of thing should not have happened because the Italian courts had ample opportunity to arrest this woman from the start and force her to return the child, pursuant to international law. This [case] obviously triggers the Hague Convention, that treaty between nations that children who are abducted and taken to other signatory nations will be returned to the custodial parent in the country where the child was abducted. It seems the Italian system was too arcane to figure itself out and work this case out the right way.
In the other case, the father, Brandon Henry, a 28 year old Black man, had a relationship with a woman who seems of Hispanic heritage. Her folks objected to the relationship on class basis and so they took their daughter off to Italy to give birth to the child. She then abandoned the child in an Italian orphanage run by a group of Catholic nuns. Brandon, too, had to go through a ton of red tape to find his son and then to get the child back. But his DNA matched the child’s DNA and in the end, he was allowed to leave Florence with his son.
What was surprising about the case is that Italy and the United States are both signatories of the Hague Convention. Chris never discussed the Hague Convention in his reporting, which was a bit surprising. He kept referring to “International laws” that govern these types of cases. But he never delved much into the Hague which is the controlling body of law in these international kidnapping situations.
Both Italy and the U.S. are signatories of the Hague as we pointed out in a previous post When your Ex kidnaps the baby:
But. So. What else? Well, these are the countries I think are current signatories of the Hague Convention: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuana, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa , Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela. More
Poor Michael had to leave Italy after about 20 visits without his son once again. But by the end of Chris’ report, Brandon had secured the right to bring his little Pieter (Peter) home. Kudos to Chris for a great story and to Brandon for getting his son back. We wish Michael all the luck in the world.
Don’t give up, Michael. You will eventually find your son and bring him home just like Brandon did.