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Integrated Domestic Violence Court…cont

Proof of service by mail to an address not specified in the part of the Dominican court record before this court was submitted to the Dominican court. The mother did not appear for the custody proceeding. In a decision dated April 17, 2002, the District Court found respondent in default for nonappearance and awarded full custody to the petitioner. Noting that the children had now been with their father for over a year, the court declined to move them again, citing the need for “stability and security in the future.” The law guardian in the proceeding took the position that custody should be awarded to the father, noting that the mother “ceded custody of said children by means of an amicable agreement signed on the 1st of December of 2000,” and urged adherence to that agreement. The mother, who asserts that she learned of the renewed custody proceeding only when she personal appeared in the Dominican Republic for a visit with the children in April 2002, filed an appeal on June 7, 2002 and inquiry was held in that court on August 7, 2002. In a decision dated October 22, 2002, the Appellate Court affirmed the grant of custody to the father.

Two weeks after the Dominican appellate decision, on November 8, 2002, the father was arrested in Bronx County for threatening to kill the mother. He was charged with two counts of aggravated harassment in the second degree and related lesser offenses. He asserted to the Criminal Justice Agency (CJA), which interviews criminal defendants prior to arraignment for the purpose of advising the court on bail, that he had been “self-employed” full time as an “entrepreneur” in the Bronx for the past two years. He gave as his address 1268 St. Nicholas Avenue, New York, New York 10033. He represented that he had lived alone at that address during the prior year. He gave a different New York address to the arresting officer: 736 West 173rd Street in Manhattan. At arraignment on November 9, 2002, a full order of protection was issued in favor of the mother. Based in part on the father’s representations of community ties, he was released on his own recognizance and remains at liberty.

Almost immediately upon release, on November 12, 2002, the father brought a petition for writ of habeas corpus in Bronx County Family Court (Docket No. V-19646-7/02), alleging that the mother removed the children from the Dominican Republic in contravention of the final order of custody issued by the Family Court in Santo Domingo and affirmed on injury appeal. A law guardian was assigned to represent the children, and the matter was made returnable for the following day, November 13, 2002, in the Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) Court, where the criminal matter was also now pending.

In response to the writ of habeas corpus, the mother appeared in the IDV Court with the children. Given the allegations of domestic violence and the lack of official, translated court documents from the Dominican proceeding, the children were allowed to remain with their mother pending further inquiry. The Dominican court documents were then sent for official translation.

On December 4, 2002, the mother filed a petition for custody with Bronx County Family Court. In that petition she alleged that, after she fled without the children to the United States in December 1999 to escape domestic violence, the petitioner took their children from her mother’s home without her permission and obtained a default order of custody from a court in the Dominican Republic. She also filed a family offense petition; alleging again that the father had threatened her life on November 13, 2002 (the day after he filed the writ of habeas corpus) and that he had displayed a gun, threatening to shoot her and the children.

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