Snowmass father: ‘I want girls to live like normal kids’
El Montañés editor
Dennis Burns of Snowmass recently won a five-year international custody battle with his ex-wife, Ana Alianelli.
Alianelli had taken the couple’s daughters, Victoria, 8, and Sophia, 6, to her native Argentina in September 2010, and returned to the United States last month after an Argentine court order.
Burns had been named the primary residential parent, and Alianelli didn’t have his or the court’s permission to take the girls.
Burns now has custody of the girls, and Alianelli is allowed chaperoned visits.
Veronica Whitney, editor of the El Montañés Spanish-language weekly, who has followed the story for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, recently had this interview with Burns.
Whitney: How are the girls?
Burns: The girls are doing well. Playing with new friends. We go to the bowling alley. I’m teaching them some classes at home.
Whitney: How do you feel after all you’ve been through to get them back?
Burns: I’m still in shock. I spent three weeks in Argentina and hardly ate or slept there. It was extremely difficult. I like to run, and the truth is I was always looking behind my back when I did because they put my pictures on the news. One said, “You’re going to die like a dog.”
It’s a miracle I have been able to bring them back. I never wanted to give up on this fight.
Whitney: What do you want to see happening now?
Burns: I want the girls to begin to live like normal kids their age. Have friends, go to school. That they share their time with their dad and their mom.
Whitney: Do you agree to share custody with their mother?
Burns: I would like to come to that. But I think first we have to go through certain stages.
Whitney: Are you afraid she would leave with the girls again?
Burns: Absolutely! How can I completely prevent her of doing that again? And I have to go through all this again. I spent five years trying to get them back. … Or it could be worse because the next time I appear in Argentina, they say they are going to kill me.
But I don’t intend to cut the relationship of the girls with their family in Argentina. If all goes well, I’ll consider something in the future. If I have death threats in Argentina and Ana’s brother attacked me in the (Buenos Aires International Airport) and threatens me also, how does Ana expect me to go? That is my question to Ana. The girls would have to go with me. They are making things impossible there.
She wants to continue the legal battle. I‘m done with that. Ana remains inflexible and mean to me the way she talks about me with the Argentinean media saying I’m a drug addict, a gambler, that I hit her and that we lost our home because of me. I never hit Ana.
Whitney: These cases are very expensive. How much has this cost you?
Burns: I can’t say exactly, but hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Whitney: Do you think you could ever be friends with Ana again?
Burns: A few weeks ago, I had the hope that it might be possible. Ana came and spoke to me and apologized and said she felt bad about what had happened. We had a moment. But the next day, she asked me if I would let them stay in Argentina, and when I told her no, she started her attacks against me on the media. So she wasn’t really sorry. She just wanted me to change my mind.
I’ve had five years to think about this. And I came to the conclusion that in these years I want to be better as a person and want to focus on my daughters. I want to be better in the situation we have. It seems absurd that a person can commit a felony and alienate me from my daughters. She wouldn’t let me talk to them on Skype for 17 months although there was a court order in Argentina that I could contact them three times a week. She didn’t obey it.
My parents tried to contact them for Christmas, and she didn’t allow them to talk to the girls. These are their grandparents, they also have rights.
For 17 months, Ana would not let me talk to my daughters for their birthdays, Christmas. It is difficult to forgive someone after all this. The first 17 months I could not see my babies because she put domestic-violence charges against me in Argentina when I wasn’t even in the country, and I could show that in my passport. But I’ve got to wait months for Argentina to realize this.
Now I focus on forgiveness. It is a daily process. When I get another death threat from someone because Ana says I beat her, that day I have to focus back again to forgive.
Whitney: Can you do it?
Burns: I do it every day. It is not my position to judge. That is her own karma.