Colorado International Child Custody Battle Nears End
Two Colorado parents involved in a six-year international child custody battle returned to court in late September for a hearing before a final decision is made in the case, the Post Independent reports.
The two children of Ana Alianelli and Dennis Burns, Sophia and Victoria, returned to Colorado 17 months ago after spending four years with their mother in Argentina. Alianelli took the two girls in 2010 without Burns’ permission.
The girls were born in Aspen and lived near Glenwood Springs before their parents were divorced. Since April 2015, they have been living with their father in Snowmass. Alianelli sees the children 30% of the time without supervision, as was ordered by Judge Denise Lynch when the girls first returned to the United States.
Alianelli, who took the children to Buenos Aires, has filed a motion to amend the custody arrangement and relocate the children to Argentina.
At the latest hearing, two experts testified that relocating the children once again would be detrimental.
Therapist Resa Hayes testified that the two girls had made “significant progress” after relocating to Colorado. She says the children have “adjusted to their new school” and have already formed meaningful relationships with friends and teachers.
Hayes said the girls had bonded with both parents. When asked if a move to Argentina or New York, where Alianelli’s sister resides, would negatively impact the girls, Hayes said it would because they would not have access to both parents.
Dr. Andrew Loizeaux, an evaluator, agreed with Hayes’ assessment. He noted that the girls had adjusted “remarkably well” in Snowmass and said another transition “could be traumatic for the kids.”
Loizeaux has observed the two children in both parents’ homes and has been in contact with the girls’ teachers. He recommended that Burns be the sole decision-maker in regards to the girls.
After a bitter divorce battle, Alianelli obtained a short-term permit allowing her to take the children overseas and brought the girls to Argentina. The judge ordered Alianelli to return after the permit expired. Alianelli ignored the order.
The Argentinean Supreme Court ordered Alianelli to surrender the girls. Shortly after, they returned home to Colorado. Burns invoked The Hague Convention to get the girls returned back to the United States. It took four years to get Argentine courts to comply.
“International child custody cases can be complex and emotionally challenging for children and parents,” says Allison Maxim, an attorney at Maxim Law who specializes in international custody cases. “The Hague Convention can aid in these cases, but compliance can take persistence and patience.”
Burns says judges in Argentina kept delaying his case. One judge was suspended after allegedly being involved in irregular adoptions.
Alianelli alleges that Burns had beat her, which prompted her to leave with the children.
Burns was arrested in 2009 in a domestic dispute, but that case was dismissed. He was arrested a few months later for violating a restraining order when he returned to his marital home to retrieve his personal belongings. Burns claimed Alianelli gave him permission to return to the home, but then called the police.
The judge, who presided over the 2010 case and named Burns the primary residential parent, is expected to issue a final order in the case in early November.
Author: Jacob Maslow