Last week Max Troitsky celebrated his daughter’s second birthday with a cake, candles and an empty chair at the table.
Little Julie Troitsky remains somewhere in Russia with her mother, Troitsky’s estranged wife, Anna, who disappeared with their child a few days before Thanksgiving in violation of a child custody order.
In recent weeks, Max Troitsky learned that Anna has filed for divorce in Russia, a move Troitsky’s lawyer suspects is an attempt to establish jurisdiction there for a custody action. In court paperwork, she indicated that she did not know Max’s whereabouts, Troitsky said.
Meanwhile, in Bucks County — where the couple’s divorce proceedings were under way — a judge earlier this month froze all assets in his wife’s name and gave Max Troitsky the legal ability to move and dispose of some marital assets. A judge already awarded Max Troitsky full physical and legal custody of Julie after Anna defied a court order in December to return to the United States.
But it remains to be seen how Russian authorities will handle the existing U.S. custody order. Troitsky and his attorney do not anticipate a quick resolution.
“She has committed no crime in Russia, and the U.S. Embassy has no authority on Russian soil,” Troitsky’s laywer Jeffrey Liebmann said. “It is a real nightmare.”
Troitsky, who divides time between Bensalem and Upper Southampton homes, recently went public with the case, anticipated to be one of Russia’s first tests under the Hague Abduction Convention, which dictates civil aspects of international child abduction.
n October, Russia joined the convention as a partner country, meaning it will honor civil verdicts, such as child custody orders, issued by foreign courts, and return children abducted by a parent.
For now, though, Russian authorities are not under any obligation to assist with enforcing custody orders until it establishes a central authority to oversee compliance with the Hague Convention, Liebmann said.
There also is some skepticism whether Russian courts will comply. Other convention nations, such as Brazil, Chile and Mexico, don’t routinely follow convention provisions.
Russia’s judiciary has a “less than perfect record” for independence and impartiality, and a recent report suggests that judges are open to bribes and other external influences, according to the McGill University blog, “Legal Frontiers.”
The Troitskys, Russian natives and U.S. citizens, were in the process of divorcing following five years of marriage. After the couple separated, Anna, Julie and Anna’s mother, Elena Demyanyuk, continued to live in the family’s Upper Southampton home.
As the divorce and custody cases proceeded, Anna filed a petition seeking court permission to relocate to Moscow, Russia, or Denver, Colo., where her brother lives. In mid-November, a Bucks County judge granted the couple shared legal custody of Julie and denied Anna’s request to relocate to either place.
Four days after the final custody order was issued, Anna, Julie and Demyanyuk left the United States without his knowledge or permission, in violation of their custody order, Troitsky said.
Troitsky learned about the divorce filing in Russia from a legal representative he hired in that country. But the proceedings there were continued for a month.
In Russia, couples are first divorced, and everything else, including division of assets and child custody, is handled after that.
Troitsky says he plans to go to Russia once the custody case is under way, which he anticipates could begin in the next six months. At a minimum, he hopes the Russian courts will give him access to his daughter either by Skype, phone or visitation.
Troitsky last spoke to Julie via Skype Nov. 26. In early December, Anna stopped contact. Troitsky said he continues to email her but gets no response.
Last week, Troitsky and his family celebrated Julie’s birthday, something he plans to continue doing until she comes home. He also posted a letter to her on the website he created to bring attention to his custody situation (www.helpbringjuliehome.com).
“While I would do anything to celebrate this important milestone with you in person, sadly, circumstances don’t allow us to celebrate together,” he wrote. “However, on this special day, I want to wish you nothing but laughter, love and happiness in your life! Please don’t forget that you have two parents, and that we both love you, each in our own way.”
Max Troitsky’s letter to his daughter Julie
Happy birthday, sweetheart! Today you turn 2 years old. While I would do anything to celebrate this important milestone with you in person, sadly, circumstances don’t allow us to celebrate together. However, on this special day, I want to wish you nothing but laughter, love and happiness in your life! Please don’t forget that you have TWO parents, and that we both love you, each in our own way.
As I look back at the last two years, it feels like just two days ago your mom and I brought you home from the hospital, and just yesterday we celebrated your 1st birthday, when you blew out your first candle from your high chair. As you are a year older now, and better able to understand the significance of this day, don’t forget to make a wish before you blow out the candles. If you wish hard enough, your wish will come true!
As you celebrate your birthday with your family in Russia, please remember that you also have a family in the U.S., who loves you and misses you dearly. Because you cannot be here with us, for this important day, your grandparents and I will have to celebrate your birthday without you. We also invited your big teddy bear and your nap-pal Ladybug to join us in singing a happy birthday song for you. They’ve both been asking me about you and wondering when Julie will come home. I wish I had a good answer for them… I just keep telling them that Julie will be back soon, and they understand. In the meantime, they are patiently waiting for you, along with all of your other toys and books.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 73 days since we were separated from each other on November 20, but please know that I am doing everything in my power to fix this and bring you home soon. I also think of you every day… many times a day… and it hurts to know that you’re so far away! But I have faith, and I know in my heart that we will be reunited!
I love you and miss you terribly,
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