Saving Kidnapped Children From A Failed System

My daughter Noluenn was abducted to France by her mother in August 2013. Then 8 years old, Noluenn was born and raised in the U.S.A, and grew up in New York City. We were as close as any father and daughter could be and I love her with all my heart. So, I chose to not publicize our case to protect her from the harm of such publicity, hoping that justice would prevail. But after three years of waiting for justice, we cannot wait any longer. The systemic failure of International, Federal, State and local justice systems to adopt and enforce effective kidnapping laws has cost us nearly everything we have. I am now speaking out for justice, not only for Noluenn and our family, but for countless children and families who will be victims of international abduction to come.

The New York Supreme Court, U.S. State Department and the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children are all well aware of our vast case history. Since 2006, my daughter's mother had waged an unrelenting campaign of false lawsuits against me in an attempt to harm me and alienate my daughter from me for the purposes of gaining custody and moving to France. She brought false claims against my wife and me no less than 7 times between 2006 and 2013. Each time, the claims were investigated, determined unfounded and dismissed, my daughter found unharmed and happy, and my custodial rights upheld. But, the costs on Noluenn and us were enormous.

After the first false allegations in 2006, the Supreme Court of the State of New York established joint legal custody and exclusive jurisdiction. After the mother's second, heinous attempt to falsely accuse me of molestation in 2007, in which she tried to manipulate Noluenn and medical professionals, the New York Supreme Court added this language to specifically preempt the possibility she would abduct my daughter to France on false claims of abuse, ordering verbatim:
"Mother further agrees that she will make no application to any French court with regard to the child and that the Supreme Court, New York County, NY, has exclusive and continuing jurisdiction over custody/visitation of the subject child, emergency and otherwise."
But, the mother slanderously kept up her campaign even after her claims were debunked, and brought false claims against us 3 more times, once in 2011, and two more final times in the spring and summer of 2013, immediately before the abduction. Due to the incessant abuse, I at last obtained a Temporary Order of Protection against her in March 2013, hoping to protect my daughter, family and myself.

The mother's last false claims against us were investigated and dismissed, again. CPS's final investigation the month before the kidnapping revealed the mother was suspected of physically harming Noluenn herself to accuse us. She was in trouble. We had a return hearing in Queens Family Court on October 3, 2013. The news that she had falsely accused us again, and manipulated a therapist in the process, was going to be revealed to the judge. But that day never came.

The last time I saw Noluenn before she was kidnapped was Monday, July 29, 2013. She had spent four joyous weeks with family and me on summer vacation. She then flew to France for a four-week vacation with her mother, who was ordered to return to the United States with her no later than August 27, 2013. Noluenn was enrolled, tuition already paid, for the coming year at her school of three years, the Lycee Francais de New York. Everyone thought she was coming back.

But, on Friday, August 29th, as my wife and I prepared Noluenn's bedroom with gifts for her return celebration, half an hour before I expected to pick her up, I received an email from a French lawyer informing me Noluenn was not back in the U.S., that she was supposedly being held in France by 'French authorities,' and that she would never be returning.

Despite our ironclad custody agreement preempting any legal proceedings in France whatsoever, the mother and her French lawyer filed her disproven claims of abuse in a remote town in France. She demanded full custody, and the protection of the French courts, claiming that the U.S. and New York justice system and child protective services had failed to protect Noluenn from years of supposed abuse -- abuse that never occurred. The therapist whom the mother had manipulated, without obtaining my written release nor ascertaining the facts of our case, aided the mother, supplying her with letters and a false report claiming abuse had taken place, in complete contradiction of all of the Supreme Court ordered and CPS investigations proving it was a ruse. The mother built her entire case on these false documents.

The U.S. Department of State, the FBI, and our lawyers, advised us to not pursue criminal charges for federal kidnapping. They assured us that given the strength of our case history, my daughter would be returned under application of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. My lawyers also advised that because we had a return date on October 3rd already scheduled in Queens Family Court, filing in the New York Supreme Court was unneeded as we should obtain custody rapidly and be able to take that decision to France to ensure Noluenn's swift return.

We indeed won our Hague case for my daughter's return in December 2013 in an especially strong ruling including damages and provisional enforcement. But on the deadline for her to be back (January 14, 2014) in the U.S., the mother evaded French police, hospitalized Noluenn claiming my 8-year old daughter was "suicidal", and filed an appeal, again on the same disproven claims. Unbelievably, despite my career as a peace and human rights activist, the mother and her lawyer newly claimed I had become a terrorist to incite racism among the provincial judges.

The mother and her lawyer invoked Article 13B of the Hague Convention. Article 13B stipulates the return of abducted children can be denied if the child is in grave physical or psychological danger. It was written to protect children fleeing immitigable harm such as natural disasters and war, or abuse in countries where there are no judicial or family mechanisms in place to protect children. Article 13B was not written for places like The United States and New York, where vast child protection structures are in place, nor for cases like ours with long, proven histories of false allegations. The Hague Convention was written specifically to prevent forum shopping of this kind. My long proven innocence and our agreement preempting any French Court involvement should have guaranteed my daughter's immediate return.

But, in a travesty of justice, the New York courts refused to release to the French court the forensic report that proved the mother had falsely accused me and that my daughter had never been abused. The court insisted that forensic reports are too 'sensitive' to release to foreign courts, making it impossible for me to rebut the mother's hearsay beyond doubt. The French Appeals Court did not investigate, ignored our custody agreement, and the vast history of U.S. decisions dismissing the mother's claims of abuse and upholding my parental rights. The French courts even ignored a letter the Queens court had sent them in which the Queens court asserted continuing jurisdiction in New York, informed the French court that our case had been open here since before the Hague trials began in France, and invoked the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act. Unbelievably, the French appeals court refused to return Noluenn on claims of abuse that had repeatedly been disproven.

Our liaisons at the State Department and National Center For Missing and Exploited Children were aghast. Everyone expected my daughter's return and couldn't understand what went wrong. Decisions as strong as ours are seldom if ever overturned on appeal. Later, on social media, the mother announced she had been sworn in as an employee at the same local appeals court that refused my daughter's return by the same judge that refused it, a judge whom the mother's boyfriend publicly boasted in the same conversation on Facebook is his former schoolmate from whom he has obtained favorable decisions every time he has asked him to intervene.

The mother has since announced she is publishing a book claiming her invented story is true. She has further demanded from a small local court that I pay substantial child support punishable by 2 years jail time if unpaid. She is committing crime after crime against me and continuing to harm Noluenn unstopped. Meanwhile, I have no idea where Noluenn is. I have no contact with her whatsoever. I saw her once for 3 hours, in March, 2015, on a supervised visit at a family center in a small town in France which took me two days each way to reach. Since then I have not had any contact with her again despite repeated requests for skype or phone communication. Noluenn has never seen her now 14-month old baby brother.

The Queens judge issued a warrant for the mother's arrest and summons for her immediate return with my daughter already in October 2013, well before the Hague Convention hearings in France took place. But, working from France, the mother and her lawyer stalled the Queens trial for 2 years by failing to appear and avoiding service of court orders. The Queens custody trial I requested in October 2013 didn't begin until the fall of 2015, 2 years after Noluenn was kidnapped, long after the last appeal deadline in France had passed. One would think courts would finalize matters necessary to save kidnapped children in a matter of 2-3 days, maybe a couple weeks. But, 3 years? Had the Queens court immediately given me custody, my daughter would be here today. But, sadly, no laws exist to empower or compel U.S. courts to take expedited action concerning kidnapped U.S. children. The delays have both denied us justice and further skyrocketed our legal fees. Our lives have been devastated. I cannot financially afford to continue in the face of this systemic failure of justice.

Without the intervention of Federal and State authorities now, we cannot save Noluenn. Worst, our case sets a precedent that paves the way for countless children to be kidnapped on false claims of abuse. It sets a precedent that allows therapists to submit false claims without release, not only outside of their professional scope and jurisdiction, but outside of the country, without consequence. It sets a precedent that awards criminals, gives children to abusers, and punishes good parents. We can't allow such injustice to befall others.

No case could possibly offer a more extensive history and stronger argument than ours to set desperately needed precedent for uniform interpretation and enforcement of the Hague Convention, Article 13B, and for the expedition of abduction related trials here at home. If the United States does nothing when abducting parents file well known disproven claims of abuse in foreign countries, the Hague Convention and Article 13B will effectively legalize child abduction. I cannot overestimate the gravity of the situation, nor of the sadness that fills my heart. Please help us gain justice for Noluenn, our family, and for children across the world. We must fix this broken system.