SASKATOON -- A Saskatchewan judge slammed the Norwegian government last month for providing new passports to help a woman flee Canada with two children in the midst of a nasty, transatlantic custody battle.
"The Norwegian government played a pivotal role in the breach of orders of this court. (They) could not have left Canada without its assistance," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Geoff Dufour remarked in a Feb. 19 written decision obtained recently by the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
At the heart of the disturbing case is an unidentified six-year-old girl who has lived in both Norway and Saskatoon throughout her parents' rocky marriage. The real names of the people involved will not be published out of concern for the child's privacy.
There was a 10-day trial, "in which legions of lies fouled the courtroom," Justice Dufour wrote. "There is more. After the trial and before this judgment was entered, (her mother) -- with the assistance of the Norwegian government -- spirited (her) out of Canada in breach of extant orders of this court and contrary to an international treaty."
Justice Dufour's decision gives the parents joint custody of the girl on a one-week rotating basis in Saskatoon, effective July 5. However, the Saskatoon-born father may never see his child again. He could not be reached for comment this week.
Jim and Carol (not their real names) met after Carol moved to Saskatoon in 1999 with her first daughter, who was 11 years old at the time. They married in 2000.
After their daughter was born in 2002, the family moved to Norway, but they returned to Saskatoon later that year.
About six months later, the marriage had turned rocky and Carol decided to return to Norway.
They signed an agreement in which she would have control of the children, but he would not pay child support. He did, however, pay her $50,000 as a "property division" to help with her move.
The agreement also stipulated that future disputes related to the child "shall be subject to the sole jurisdiction of Saskatchewan, notwithstanding the residence of the parties at that time, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties."
In 2004, Carol presented Jim with a divorce application, and he signed it. In late 2006, she used this to register divorce papers in Norway.
The following June, Jim returned to Saskatoon by himself -- but she and the children soon followed. In 2007, Carol told Jim she was taking the girls back to Norway. Jim immediately filed for custody and obtained a court order restraining Carol from taking the girls out of Saskatoon. Sheriffs seized their passports.
Days later, Carol told police their daughter, who was five at the time, had told her Jim had been sexually inappropriate with her. She took the girl to hospital for an "internal examination," which found no signs of abuse.
Justice Dufour presided over the matter in 2008, related mostly to disputes about the couple's living arrangements over the previous five years.
Before Justice Dufour could deliver his decision after the trial, Carol and the girls disappeared.
"They surrendered their passports, but the Norwegian Embassy issued them replacement passports, after the trial but before my judgment was rendered," he wrote.
No one at the Norwegian Embassy could be reached for comment Thursday.