A woman in Tennessee is seeking to get her husband living in the United Arab Emirates to return their 14-month-old child to the U.S.
Stacy Peters argued Monday in a court in Clarksville that her husband, a former U.S. Army major who had been stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., should be held in contempt for ignoring a judicial order to bring her daughter Caroline home to Tennessee.
Joshua V. Lindsey, an attorney who was representing Charles Peters in an emergency motion to dismiss the case, said that Stacy Peters abandoned her child and fled the country when her husband filed a charge of adultery in Dubai, according to an affidavit he gave the court. She denies the allegation of adultery.
Lindsey also claimed the judge had no jurisdiction because the couple was living in Dubai when they separated. Caroline was born in Tennessee, but she hasn't been in the state in eight months, he said.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge John H. Gasaway III noted Monday that the country does not comply with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which governs child custody issues inside the United States, and does not fall under U.S. codes. He denied the father's emergency motion for dismissal.
Charles Peters is a West Point graduate who works a company that trains U.A.E. military forces, according to Stacy Peters' attorney, Lee Berry IV.
"Our primary concern to this matter is the safe return of the child to the United States and her mother," Berry said in a statement. "We believe justice was upheld today and strongly hope that this court's orders are followed, here and abroad."
Berry said there is little to no prior case law in Tennessee similar to the case and it's more unusual than other international custody cases because the parents and the child are all U.S. citizens.
"We will continue fighting until Caroline has been returned to the loving embrace of her mother," Berry said.
Stacy Peters, 31, told reporters after the court hearing that she last saw her daughter on March 27 when she left their house in Dubai to go to work. When she came home, all her belongings had been put outside and her husband had left a note saying he had taken their daughter and planned to file for a divorce.
Peters, who is currently pregnant, had no money and went to the U.S. embassy, where she was instructed to seek legal help to obtain custody of the child.
She said her husband had served three tours in Iraq and that she thought their 8-year marriage would improve after he left the military and took a job as a contractor in Dubai. But she said he abused her and she fears her daughter is not safe. Lindsey, Charles Peters' attorney, argued in court there was no proof of abuse.
"I am most worried about her safety," Peters said.
Even with the judge's order, Peters acknowledged it would be difficult to enforce the order while her husband remains in the United Arab Emirates. The country is not a party of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and U.S. court orders are generally not recognized abroad, according to the U.S. Department of State's website.
"He could stay there the rest of his life and nobody could make him bring her back," she said.
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