Mon, May 08, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Custody battle girl could leave today if paperwork OK

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A US man who was forced to remain in Taipei with his daughter on Friday after a bitter custody battle may be allowed to depart today, once the three-year old receives documentation allowing her to leave.

The man, whose name was being reported a variety of ways in the Chinese-language media, had applied for an Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) for his daughter, which was to be issued today. With the ARC and the girl's US passport, he would be allow to return to the US with his daughter today.

The battle for custody of the girl became the focus of a whirlwind of sensational news coverage after the youngster's mother, surnamed Ruan, contacted local media with her story.

Ruan used to work as the New York correspondent for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-run Chinese-language newspaper Central Daily News. Ruan told reporters that she had the child with the 55-year-old US citizen in 2003. She said that she decided to return to Taiwan with her child in 2004 after she discovered that he was married.

According to Ruan, the man went to a US court to seek custody of the girl.

Local media have not interviewed the man or explained whether he disputes that version of events, and had not independently confirmed any of Ruan's claims.

However, the Apple Daily reported on Saturday that the man's lawyer said his client had told the US court that Ruan had psychological problems. According to that report, Ruan failed to appear in court to defend herself and ignored a court order barring her from leaving the US with the infant during the custody trial

The US court awarded the man custody of the child, the reports said. The man then hired lawyers to make an appeal to the Taichung District Court -- where Ruan has her household registration -- to help him claim his daughter in accordance with the US court's ruling.

Ruan said that on Friday morning, her former lover, a judge and several police officers entered her residence in Taipei and took custody of the girl.

But the father's plan to return to the US on Friday with his daughter hit a snag after CKS International Airport officials would not allow them to board their plane because the girl did not have her Taiwanese passport, on which she had entered the country.

Late Friday, the man and his lawyer filed a lawsuit in a local court to demand that Ruan hand over the girl's passport. However, he discovered that it would be much faster to simply apply for an ARC for his daughter.

A Taichung judge told reporters yesterday that he ruled Ruan must hand over the girl because the US court had asked her not to leave the US with the infant during the trial, but Ruan had broken the law by ignoring the order. The judge also said that Ruan had not appeared in the Taichung District Court during the hearing.

Nevertheless, Ruan was still trying to find ways to prevent her daughter from leaving her, and had enlisted the help of Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Liao Pen-yen (廖本煙).

Liao accompanied Ruan to a press conference, where she appeared before the cameras in a large hat and sunglasses.

"The government should be responsible for protecting its citizens, and shouldn't allow the girl to leave the country," Liao said.

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