Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Mother, daughter trapped abroad amidst child custody dispute

An overseas trip based on goodwill took a turn for the worst for a Massachusetts mother and her six-year-old daughter. The 33-year-old mother took her daughter to Brazil in May so she could visit her father, her extended relatives and so she could learn her cultural heritage. Unfortunately, the mother and daughter have been stuck there ever since.

The 33-year-old mother, who is from Agawan, just west of Worcester, Massachusetts, has been estranged from the daughter's father since their divorce in 2009. She was awarded full custody of their daughter. When they arrived in the father's homeland, the father went to court to seek child custody. He was later denied custody, but the judge confiscated both the mother's and daughter's passport.

Now undocumented, the mother fears for her safety, as well as for her daughter's health because she is having trouble adjusting to the lifestyle and food of the country. The U.S. State Department has issued a statement that they are closely monitoring the case of the trapped mother and daughter. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Richard Neal have joined the call to bring the trapped mother and daughter back home.

For Worcester parents embroiled in a custody dispute, the tide significantly changes when international borders are crossed. International abductions, or cases where a parent has filed a case in another country's court of law, may need the expertise of a legal professional with experience in international custody disputes. A legal professional may help in ascertaining if the country is privy to the Hague Convention Treaty on International Child Abduction. In cases like these, a considerable amount of legal measures may be needed.

Meanwhile, Worcester parents who wish for changes in visitation rights or custody need not resort to unsavory means. Presenting a valid reason for child custody modification for the court to assess may suffice.

Source: ABC News "Massachusetts Mother Trapped in Custody Battle in Brazil Fears She'll be Jailed," Gio Benitez & Geetika Rudra, July 5, 2013.

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