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Michigan native caught in international child custody dispute

A woman originally from Michigan is at the center of an international child custody case after she reportedly fled Turkey with her two daughters in 2007 in order to protect them from sexual abuse at the hands of their father. The woman testified at a U.S. District Court hearing, admitting that she obtained $70,000 from her parents and used the money to pay a mercenary to smuggle her and her daughters, now ages 10 and 9, over the Turkish border. She lived with the girls in a small European country for over two years before being allowed to return to the United States on single-use passports.

The girls' father accuses the woman of violating a 2006 order from a Turkish court granting him child custody by taking the girls; he also alleges that taking the girls defies the International Child Abduction Convention of The Hague. The Michigan woman tried to bring to light her allegations that the man was abusing their children when the couple divorced in 2006, but a Turkish family court ruled that such claims were unfounded and awarded custody to the father.

The U.S. District Court judge hearing the case acknowledged that the woman's actions were illegal; however, he also noted that child abduction provisions passed by The Hague could allow the woman to keep custody of the children in the U.S., as taking them back to Turkey could cause harm and disruption to their lives.

The woman told the court that she began suspecting her then-husband of sexually abusing their children as early as 2004, when her grandmother claimed to have seen the man inappropriately touching one of the girls as he changed her diaper. The woman also accused the man of becoming visibly aroused while handling the girl. However, she did not report the issue to Turkish police because she was never certain that the abuse was actually taking place.

Source:, "NH mom: I fled Turkey over husband's child abuse," Lynne Tuohy, Jan. 22, 2013

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