International Law

Dad Gives Up Losing Custody Battle

John McHugh knows a lot more about Brazilian family law than he used to. His wife and their 7-year-old daughter now live in Brazil, and, unlike their counterparts in the U.S., judges there routinely award sole custody to the mother.

Initially, McHugh, now 47, wasn’t too worried, even when his wife got a Brazilian court order giving her temporary sole custody of their daughter, Chiara, reports the Boston Globe. “McHugh thought little of his wife’s legal move: How could three American citizens fall under the jurisdiction of the Brazilian family court system?”

But they could and did, as he found out when he sought a custody order from a Middlesex County Probate and Family Court judge when his wife and daughter visited Cambridge last year. The U.S. judge recognized the validity of the Brazilian court order under international child custody law, and McHugh wound up hiring a Brazilian lawyer to fight his case there, too. As it progressed, though, he weighed the emotional cost of the court battle for all concerned.

After a joyful U.S. visit with his daughter, McHugh put her back on a plane to Brazil and “dismissed his Cambridge lawyer, resigning himself to the fact that he probably would not be able to get his case moved to the U.S. courts and that the Brazilian court would almost certainly award permanent custody of Chiara to his wife,” the newspaper reports. The benefit: “He could spare more family strife and instead hope the Brazilian courts would establish a reasonable visitation schedule and a fair assessment of child support.”

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