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Melissa A. Featherston

Missouri couple in midst of international child custody case

Handling the myriad issues that can be related to child custody can be overwhelming to any family, but one Missouri family is facing an international custody battle that is proving to be particularly challenging. And it appears far from over.

The story has been highly publicized. It involves a Missouri couple who apparently legally adopted a daughter in the United States but now finds themselves in a child custody battle with a woman from a Central American country who has been identified as the child's biological mother. According to the woman and authorities in her homeland, the child was taken in 2006 and was sold to an international adoption agency.

The case becomes very complicated for a number of reasons. To begin with, the Missouri couple apparently believes that the adoption process was legitimate and had no knowledge that the child was the apparent victim of abduction from her home in Guatemala. In addition, at the time of the abduction, the United States and Guatemala hadn't signed on to a treaty for resolving international kidnapping cases. They have signed the agreement since then.

Both sets of parents in this unusual child custody dispute express their love for the child. And both express that they want what is best for her. But how the case will play out is unclear.

The United States desires to have the case settled in the state court. However, Guatemalan authorities ruled last year that the child should be placed back with her biological mother. The biological mother says her hope is to be able to fight in Missouri court to win the return of her daughter. The adoptive parents in the United States are not commenting at this time, but a representative said last year that they want to protect the girl from undue trauma.

It's unknown when the case might make it before a judge.

Source: CNN, "Guatemalan mother seeks 'stolen' daughter's return from U.S.," Maria Renee Barillas and Rafael Romo, May 18, 2012

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