Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
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Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Local father continues fight to return his daughter from Russia
Posted: Tuesday, July 10, 2012
In the United States, Max Troitsky is an estranged husband with court-ordered sole custody of his only child, Julie. But in Russia, Troitsky is recently divorced with a pending child custody case involving the now 2-year-old.
The latter status is what the Bensalem man, who is in the middle of an international child custody dispute, hopes finally gives him contact with Julie. He hasn’t seen his child since before Thanksgiving, when she was whisked out of the country by her mother and grandmother in violation of a custody order.
Max Troitsky and his daughter Julie
Troitsky had anticipated that his custody case would be among the first Russia test cases under the Hague Abduction Convention, which dictates civil aspects of international child abduction. In October, Russia signed onto the convention as a partner country, meaning it would honor civil verdicts, such as child custody orders issued by foreign courts, and return children abducted by a parent.
But several months ago, Troitsky learned that since Russia has not formalized its commitment to the convention, Troitsky’s custody case will not fall under the Hague provisions. “My options are slim,” he said.
And they rest entirely with the Russian court system, which recently granted his wife, Anna, a divorce as well as alimony and child support, he said.
While the Troitskys, who are Russian natives and U.S. citizens, were in the process of divorcing in Bucks County after five years of marriage, his wife filed a petition seeking court permission to relocate to Russia or Denver where her brother lives.
A county judge granted the couple shared legal custody of Julie in November 2011 and denied Anna’s request to relocate to either place. Four days after the final custody order was issued, Anna, Julie and Anna’s mother, Elena Demyanyuk, left the United States without Max’s knowledge or permission and in violation of the custody order.
Max was awarded full physical and legal custody of Julie after Anna defied a court order in December to return to the United States.
After she relocated to Russia — and cut off contact with Max in December — Anna Troitsky filed for divorce there. In Russia, couples are first divorced, and everything else, including division of assets and child custody, is handled after.
None of his side of the case was brought out during the Russian divorce proceedings, said Max Troitsky, who hired a lawyer to represent him in the divorce. Anna did not tell the judge that the child is a U.S. citizen, Troitsky said. In court documents, Troitsky said Anna claimed that she and Max agreed that Julie would live with her, which he said is a lie.
But the divorce provided Troitsky with critical information: an address for where Anna and Julie are living, which is with Demyanyuk.
While it would be illegal for Troitsky to simply go to Russia and take back his daughter, the address will let him re-establish contact with Anna and Julie, he said.
Since the Russian court ordered him to pay child support, Troitsky said that he can demand — and most likely will be given — access to Julie while the child custody case proceeds. If Anna continued to avoid contact, Troitsky said he could file a petition for custody with the Russian court.
Troitsky has not filed criminal kidnapping charges against his wife, which would place her name, picture and other information into Interpol, the international crime database.
“We’re getting closer to that,” he added, “but I want to give her one last chance.”
Troitsky plans to initiate contact with Anna to work out some type of voluntary visitation either through phone conversations or Skype, and in-person visits in Russia.
Troitsky said the last time he spoke with Julie via Skype was Nov. 26.
“It’s been way too long. It’s been eight months with no contact,” he said. “That is completely unacceptable.”
Also unacceptable for Troitsky is the United States’ enforcement of the Hague Convention rules regarding parental abductions. At the end of June, Troitsky met with Bucks County Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, R-8, to discuss the issue.
Fitzpatrick promised to follow up on Troitsky’s case with the U.S. State Department and reach out to his colleagues in Congress with knowledge of the issue, particularly New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, Troitsky said. Smith played a key role in the 2009 reunion of John Goldman and his son Sean, who had been separated for five years after Sean’s mother took him to Brazil and refused to return or allow John to see Sean.
The newspaper was unsuccessful Monday in reaching Fitzpatrick for comment.
In the months since his daughter was taken to Russia, Troitsky has spoken with parents in the same situation as him.
He has learned from them that some countries that are part of the Hague Convention don’t enforce the rules. It’s why he believes the United States needs to apply more political pressure, including economic sanctions, to get countries to comply.
“It’s discouraging in the sense that not enough is being done by the U.S. to get other countries to sign on to the convention and get countries to abide by it,” he said.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181;
To learn more about Max Troitsky's efforts to bring his daughter Julie home