A Mennonite pastor is on trial in Vermont for helping a woman leave the United States with her daughter in the midst of a child custody dispute. The Justice Department charged the pastor with violating the federal law that makes it unlawful for a person to aid in international child abduction.
The allegations against the clergyman are that in 2009 he arranged transportation and lodging for the mother and her now 10-year old daughter from Virginia to Canada and, eventually, to Nicaragua by using his contacts among the Mennonites. The allegations against the pastor are that he knew that the mother was engaged in a dispute with her former partner over custody rights and visitation when he aided her in fleeing from the U.S.
The pastor’s defense is expected to rely upon a claim that the mother had custody at the time she left the country. The pastor’s attorneys are expected to base this defense on the fact that a Vermont court order granting custody rights to the mother’s former partner was not filed until after she had left the country.
As this story shows, the federal government is taking an aggressive stand against the wrongful removal of children from the U.S. that violates the custody rights of a parent. International child custody and international child custody claims require the services of attorneys who are knowledgeable and familiar with U.S. laws as well as the rules established by the Hague Convention to deal with international child custody. The courts will deal with criminal charges against the pastor, but it is not known where the woman and child are yet.
Source: San Antonio Express-News, “Pastor on trial in Vt; mom still AWOL with child,” Wilson Ring, August 7, 2012