California International Custody Case Highlights Difficulties Fathers Face

An article last weekend in the San Mateo County Times serves as a reminder of the difficult situation many fathers here in California and elsewhere face when caught up in international child custody cases.

“Basically, I’m getting doors slammed in my face,” Andoni Petroutsas told the paper as he detailed his struggle to enforce a California family law child custody order regarding his five-year-old son. Last August, a court in Santa Cruz issued an arrest warrant for Petroutsas’ ex-wife after she failed to honor its earlier California child custody ruling. Because she is now living in Greece (where she has dual citizenship with the United States), however, the order is effectively unenforceable. “There are not strong extradition agreements between Greece and the U.S.,” the paper notes.

According to the paper, the couple split up soon after their son’s birth. The boy has shuttled back-and-forth between his mother and father ever since, with the mother living in Greece for much of that time. Last April a federal court awarded Petroutsas full custody, but allowed the mother to take the boy to Greece for a “final” six-week visit, ignoring warnings from Petroutsas that she was unlikely to send him back.

In an email to the newspaper, the mother defended herself, called the custody argument complicated and “raised questions about her ex-husband’s behavior.” She also noted that a Greek court has issued a ruling that is, essentially, a mirror image of the American court decision: awarding her custody on the grounds that Petroutsas abducted the boy to America. The paper notes that the US embassy in Athens has told Petroutsas it can be of little assistance since it is able mainly to facilitate help from the Greek authorities and the Greek court ruling makes such assistance highly unlikely.

International custody disputes involving alleged child abductions are among the most complex and stressful of California child custody cases. Fathers, in particular, often feel the custody system is stacked against them. In fighting for their California fathers’ rights they also find, in cases like these, that their legal options can be even fewer in number than they would be were the dispute confined to the United States. An Orange County international custody dispute attorney who is both experienced and compassionate can be a wronged father’s most important ally when embarking on this difficult legal road.

San Mateo County Times: Feds opt out of international custody dispute centered on boy from Capitola