Wed, May 10, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Court says girl in custody battle can't leave Taiwan

DISPUTE The mother of three-year-old Emily has prevented the girl's American father from leaving Taiwan with her for now, as the courts prepare to hear the case

By Rich Chang and Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Taipei District Court yesterday decided that Cary Sartin, the American father of a little girl named Emily who is at the center of a custody battle, cannot leave the country with his daughter until a court hearing has been completed.

"The court has agreed to the provisional disposition, which prohibits Emily from leaving the country throughout the custody trial," Taipei District Court spokesman Liu Shou-sung (劉壽嵩) said yesterday.

Emily's mother was previously identified as Ruan, but is identified as Nadia Juan (阮玫芬) in US court documents obtained by the Taipei Times.

Juan on Monday filed a petition asking the Taichung District Court to dismiss an enforcement order that had granted the father custody of the girl.

Meanwhile, her lawyer also applied to the court for the provisional disposition.

The legal situation was complicated by the fact that Juan, who lives in Taipei City, had her household registered in Taichung City.

Registration

Laws requiring Taiwanese to register their "household" -- essentially a permanent address -- are a relic of the authoritarian era, and the registration rarely reflects an individual's actual living arrangements.

However, individuals are required to return to the area in which their household is registered to conduct legal proceedings, or for civic duties such as voting.

To simplify matters, Juan on Monday transferred her household registration form Taichung City to Taipei City. Therefore, the Tai-chung District Court decided to transfer the lawsuit to the Taipei District Court.

Ruan yesterday also filed a custody suit with the Taipei District Court asking the court to give her custody of the girl.

Ruan's lawyer yesterday told reporters that they have been in touch with Sartin's lawyer, and hoped that he would allow Juan to see her daughter before Mother's Day on May 14.

The Taipei District Court yesterday summoned Juan to make her case regarding the provisional disposition, and in the afternoon the court agreed to prevent Emily from leaving the country during the custody trial.

Jurisdiction

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs weighed in on the case yesterday, saying the custody dispute must be settled by a Taiwanese court.

Ministry Spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said the US court ruling that custody belongs to Sartin can be ignored in Taiwan, as Juan did not attend the court hearing in the US.

"When the ruling was made in the US, Ms. Juan was not in court ... Now that she has appealed the ruling and brought her case to a Taiwanese court, the US court ruling can be excluded in Taiwan," Lu said yesterday.

Lu said the US-Taiwan Judicial Assistance Agreement -- which provides for legal cooperation between the two countries -- did not apply, because the US court ruled when Juan was absent.

"Now the girl's custody has to be decided by a Taiwanese court, because she is still a citizen of Taiwan," Lu said yesterday.

Lu said that because the girl entered Taiwan with a Taiwanese passport, she can't leave the country with a foreign passport.

"We won't issue a new passport to the girl as her current passport is still valid," Lu said.

Juan, the former New York correspondent for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-run newspaper Central Daily News, refuses to hand over the passport.

Sartin, a 55-year-old US citizen from New York, attempted to take the girl back to the US with him last week, but was stopped by the immigration police as the girl was not using her Taiwanese passport when passing the immigration point.

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