Child Abductor Demands That Military Dad Post $100,000
His Own Son
March 2, 2006
Out of the endless injustices our family law system has visited upon children and the fathers they love and need, few match the story of Gary S. and his son. In my column The Betrayal of the Military Father (Los Angeles Daily News, 5/4/03) I wrote:
"When Gary, a San Diego-based US Navy SEAL, was deployed in Afghanistan in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, he never dreamed that his service to his country would cost him his little son. Gary's son was not taken from him by a terrorist or a kidnapper. This 17-year Navy veteran with an unblemished military and civilian record was effectively stripped of his right to be a father by a California court.
"Gary's story is not an unusual one. Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, if a parent takes a child to a new state, that new state becomes the child's presumptive residence after six months. Because a normal military deployment is six months or more, if an unhappily married military spouse moves to another state while the other spouse is deployed, by the time the deployed spouse returns the child's residence has already been switched. Since courts lean heavily in favor of a child's primary caregiver when determining custody, the spouse who moved the child is virtually certain to gain custody through the divorce proceedings in that new state.
"Because of the strict restrictions on travel by active military personnel, the cost of legal representation, and the financial hardships created by child support and spousal support obligations, it is very difficult for returning service personnel to fight for their parental rights in another state. Many struggle even to see their children, much less remain a meaningful part of their lives, and the bond between the children and their noncustodial parent is often broken for years, if not permanently.
"Gary has not been able to see his son, who now lives abroad, in nearly nine months. When he calls he can sometimes hear the three year-old ask 'when daddy come?' and 'where's daddy?' in the background but he is often prevented from speaking with him...
"Gary has lost nearly $100,000 so far fighting for his son and may soon be forced to declare bankruptcy, which in turn will destroy the top secret security clearance he needs for his job. Worse yet is the emotional devastation wrought by his separation from his son and the knowledge that he may never see him again. He says:
"'My love for my son cannot simply be brushed aside as the courts seem to believe it can. I can remember holding my little son's hand like it was yesterday. I can remember his cry. I hear it every time I hear another child crying.'
"'Sometimes I wonder what I risked my life [in Afghanistan] for. I went to fight for freedom but what freedom and what rights mean anything if a man doesn't have the right to be a father to his own child?'
Gary's former wife abducted his son to Israel while Gary was in Afghanistan in November of 2001. Last year a California court admitted that it erred in allowing this injustice to occur and in permitting the jurisdiction for the case to be moved to Israel. In the three years since, Gary has waged a long, hard battle to be allowed to visit his son and have his son visit him in the US.
Gary has repeatedly received excellent reviews from all relevant evaluators, psychologists, and social workers. His ex-wife's father is very wealthy and has used his fortune to finance his daughter's attempts to eliminate Gary from his son's life. Gary has had to finance everything--including trips to Israel at $5,000 each--out of his Navy SEAL salary.
Last May an Israeli judge agreed that Gary's son should visit him in the US for Christmas. The ex-wife protested and demanded a new psychological evaluation, which the judge granted. The evaluation came back firmly on Gary's side. Those familiar with our family court system already know what I'm about to write--the mom didn't allow the visit anyway.
Now Gary is fighting to have his son spend two weeks with him over this coming summer. The ex-wife is demanding that Gary put up $100,000 bond for the visit, knowing that Gary has nothing close to that amount of money. (One of the reasons he doesn't is that for many years he paid $2,150 a month in "child support" to his ex-wife to help finance her abduction of his son). In a classic case of psychological projection, the woman who abducted the child wants Gary to post the money so--guess what--Gary won't keep the boy in the U.S.
Mom is also demanding that she be allowed to come to the US to be with her son while the boy is visiting his father (so she can interfere and alienate) and (of course) is demanding that Gary pay for it. Gary is having to fight all of this out on limited funds in Israeli courts in a language (Hebrew) he doesn't speak.
Gary lost his son while he was risking his life to help wipe out Al Qaeda, the enemy of both the U.S. and Israel. Yet neither the US nor Israel has lifted a finger to help reunite Gary with the son who loves him and needs him. Thanks, soldier...
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