Judge: Burns children to remain with father
The Aspen Times
Two children at the heart of an international custody dispute between a Snowmass Village man and his former spouse will remain in the custody of their father, a judge decided Tuesday.
An Argentine court in April ordered the return of the two young girls to their father, Dennis Burns, after they spent the past five years living in Argentina with their mother, Ana Alianelli, despite a court order naming Burns the primary residential parent. However, shortly after their arrival, attorneys for Alianelli filed a motion that would reunite the children with their mother, which Judge Denise Lynch on Tuesday denied.
“The Court believes that Mother remains a flight risk and may reabduct the children and return to Argentina,” Lynch wrote in her order. “There is no evidence before the Court that Mother has located employment in the United States, secured a home in the United States or taken any other action which would indicate to the Court that she will remain here in the United States.
“For the time being, Father shall remain as the primary custodial parent.”
In a separate document, Lynch ordered that Alianelli’s attorneys schedule a hearing to consider proposals for parenting time from both sides.
“The hostility between the parents seems to be escalating, which is preventing Mother from having any parenting time with the children,” Lynch wrote. “This is not in the best interest of the children.”
The orders were written in response to motions filed by both sides, for which a hearing was held over the course of June 11 and 15 in Garfield County District Court. The motion filed by Alianelli’s counsel requested enforcement of an agreement that the two parents signed during proceedings in Argentina that stated the girls would live with their mother once back in the U.S., among other items.
However, Lynch found that agreement unenforceable as both parties said during the hearing that they signed it under duress — Burns because he felt it was the only way he would get his children back and Alianelli because she felt their return to the U.S. was unavoidable.
The court proceedings in Argentina were governed by the Hague Convention, the purpose of which is to “achieve the prompt return of children who are wrongfully removed or retained outside of the country of their habitual residence,” Lynch wrote. There are only a few exceptions that would bar abducted children from being returned under the Hague Convention, but the Supreme Court of Argentina did not find any of those to apply, she said.
“The Supreme Court did find that Mother should accompany the children back to the United States as a protective measure which in fact, has occurred,” Lynch wrote. “The bottom line is that the Supreme Court of Buenos Aires did not have jurisdiction under the Hague Convention to change the custody determination that was made by this Court.”
Lynch also ordered that all four begin working with a family counselor. The two parents will split the cost of the services and should explore avenues for financial assistance, Lynch said.
“It does not take a psychologist or a psychological evaluation to point out that the girls are suffering some distress,” Lynch wrote. “That is simply common sense in a situation where they are living in a new country and in a new home. Both parents need to put their animosity toward the other parent aside and think of the best interest of their children.”
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Aspen Sister Cities members dedicated a plaque in Sister Cities Plaza to Don Sheeley, who served as president of the organization from 1998 until his death in 2017.