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Argentinean Custody Battle: How Does This Affect Parents in Divorce, Paternity and Legal Separation Cases in San Diego: 2015


Because of its close proximity to the Mexican border, families in the San Diego often have to deal with custody issues that relate to visitation, travel and sometimes international kidnaping. For this reason, many couples can identify with the case of a Colorado man who is finally bringing his two young daughters home after a five year international child custody battle. It is very easy to go from San Diego into Mexico and there are consulates from all over the world in Mexico where foreign passports can be issues.


After divorce proceedings, the two young children of Dennis Burns were taken from their home in Snowmass, Colorado, and illegally brought to Buenos Aires, Argentina, by their mother. Unwilling to give their father custody and against court orders, Ana Alianelli, an Argentine native, took her two small daughters back to her native country. The subsequent melee caused a nightmare legal battle that ultimately resulted in international parental abduction charges.

Like many couples, Burns and Alianelli were once happily married. However, as things progressed, their divorce proceedings grew bitter and both parents sought custody of the two young children. Alianelli requested to relocate the children to Buenos Aires. After consideration, the court denied her request. Then, after a 13-month custody battle, a Colorado judge ruled Burns as the primary residential parent. As with similar rulings in California, the children would have to legally remain in the United States unless the court allowed them to leave.

However, Alianelli refused to obey the court order and took the girls to Buenos Aires against the judge's orders. Fortunately, the Country of Argentina is a member of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This means that Argentina’s courts can help with the prompt return of children who have been abducted by a parent.

In this instance, Burns' battle dragged on for years as the case was passed from one Argentine Court to another. Alianelli's lawyers filed a series of appeals that eventually landed the case in the Supreme Court of Argentina. The country's highest court, rejected Alianelli's final appeal last fall and ruled that the girls must be returned to the U.S. Both parents agreed that it would be in the best interest of the children for Alianelli to join them on their return to the United States.

Burns then traveled to Argentina in late March 2015 for the Argentinean judge to sign the final order of return. The order was issued on April 13, 2015 and Burns went to the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires to pick up his daughters. The children, now 8 and 6 had spent much of their lives in Buenos Aires. The youngest was not fluent in English, creating communication challenges.

Victoria and Sophia are now back in Colorado, living with their father. But the legal battle is not yet over. With the children’s mother back in the U.S., the Colorado Judge who handed out the original custody decision will have to reconsider what type of access to the children Alianelli can be granted. At present, Alianelli is allowed supervised visitation only.

This case highlights the many issues that couples in the San Diego and other cities close to United States borders are forced to experience when spouses take children to foreign countries rather than complying with court-appointed custody. If you have questions about your San Diego custody case or believe your spouse has taken your child out of the country in violation of a court order, you should speak to an attorney immediately.


If you are dealing with issues related to a divorce or child custody, the law firm of Doppelt and Forney, APLC may be able to help you with your case. Our experienced lawyers have represented thousands of clients just like you in the San Diego area and beyond in their family law and custody cases. We are conveniently located in Rancho Bernardo just off the I-15, on Bernardo Center Drive, with lots of free parking and an elevator to assist those with mobility issues. Please feel free to contact our office for a complimentary and confidential consultation. Come see us today to get help with your family law issues.

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