Mendoza – An International Custody Battle

With everything reaching a global level these days, child custody battles are no exception. Parental child abduction is a growing international problem, often the result of a failed marriage that ends with one parent taking the children to a different country. The problem affects parents in many countries.

The case of Alejandro Mendoza is one such international custody battle. Alejandro Mendoza suspects his five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter may now be in Korea, but he is not sure. Violinist Mendoza teaches during the day and performs at night in the Lion King orchestra on Broadway. Mendoza once played a French violin made in 1902 but had to sell it for something he loves even more — his children.

Shim, Alejandro Mendoza’s wife, allegedly convinced Mendoza to move to a town south of Seoul. Per Mr. Mendoza, the family could not make it financially, so he returned to America to wait for his family; however, the family never returned.

Mendoza’s wife has a different story: “Mrs. Shim, the mother, was told by her 5-year-old son there was some type of sexual abuse by the father to the 2-year-old daughter,” said Shim’s attorney Christine Bae.

But Mendoza denies the charge. He questions why, if his wife believed the charges, did she flee rather than show up in court to gain legal custody of the children. Shim will be extradited on March 12. It’s not clear if or when the children will return to the U.S. for the divorce and custody proceedings.

Issues such as these were supposed to have been resolved by the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abductions, which came into force in 1983 and now has 80 signatories, including the United States. Under its terms, a child abducted across international borders by a parent or relative must be returned within six weeks to his or her country of habitual residence, where custody issues can be adjudicated lawfully. It is the international equivalent of the interstate compacts that prevent an unhappy father or mother residing in Maryland from taking his or her children to Nevada and contesting custody there.

Mendoza has a message for his son: “Wait for Daddy. Be patient. I’m doing the best I can. Help your sister. I’m coming.”

Sources:

Fighting for Kali: An international custody battle plays out in two countries’ courts,
http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local-beat/Jersey-Man-Fights-for-Children-86696867.html
, March 6, 2010
http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/human-rights/Parental-Abduction-Becomes-Growing-International-Problem-84269082.html
The Washington Post,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/18/AR2010021803401.html The U.S. fails children abducted from America, By Bernard Aronson
Friday, February 19, 2010