August 29 , 2014
With a new school year just around the corner, Long Valley resident Paul Eksteen would like to be wishes he were looking forward to attending his 9-year-old son’s football games or greeting him when he gets off the bus in the afternoon.
Instead, Eksteen the Long Valley resident can only look forward to a continuing battle to bring his son, Keanu Eksteen, an American a U.S. citizen, back to America. the U.S. so he can resume his education at the Cuchinella School in Washington Township and start playing sports again.
Keanu was taken to Paraguay by his mother, Rosita Berdichevsky, a citizen of that country, on Nov. 2, against the wishes of his father and in defiance of an civil court Oct. 31 order issued on Oct. 31 by Morris County state Superior Court family division Judge Maryann L. Nergaard in Morristown.
The custody battle between the two has many complicating factors, including a domestic violence complaint against the 51-year-old Berdichevsky filed after over an incident involving Eksteen, her ex-husband, at his home in 2013.
Morris County has been the locale scene of several high-profile international child custody disputes, including one involving a Mendham Township man whose wife spirited their children to Uzbekistan and another involving a Nigerian man who hid his two daughters in that African republic nation while his wife, a Dover resident, obtained court orders for return of the girls.
Before Berdichevsky left the country, the judge issued a court order that stated the mother was ordered her to appear on Nov. 13 to explain why her ex-husband should not be given full custody of their son. The judge also barred her from taking Keanu out of the country.
The order stated, “Defendant is ordered to surrender passport of the parties’ child Keanu Eksteen (born Jan. 23, 2005) to her attorney, John Brady, Esq. at 689 Washington St., third floor, Hackettstown, NJ, no later than 9 a.m. on Nov. 1, 2013.”
In addition, the order stated, “Defendant is restrained from removing Keanu Eksteen from the United States until further order of the court.”
Eksteen delivered the order to the Hackettstown office of Berdichevsky’s lawyer, John Brady office, and Brady who said he relayed the information to Berdichevsky on Nov. 1 and scheduled a meeting with her for the following week. Brady said he ad
vised her that she was not to leave the country under any circumstances and that a warrant would be issued for her arrest if she traveled outside the state and did not appear for her court hearing which was scheduled for the following week.
Berdichevsky did not make that meeting; she had left the country with Keanu. and did not make the meeting that had been scheduled with Brady.
In addition, because she missed a court appearance in connection with the domestic violence charges, Washington Township police issued a warrant for her Berdichevsky’s arrest was issued by Washington Township police.
Berdichevsky, is a citizen of Paraguay who had been living in Long Valley on a visa for the last three years, She said in a telephone interview from Paraguay that she will not return with the threat of arrest hanging over her head.
Eksteen was born in South Africa and became a U.S. citizen earlier this year. He and Berdichevsky were married in Paraguay in 2002 and moved to the United States, where their son was born. In 2008, the couple divorced in Paraguay. At that time, no formal custody arrangements were assigned, according to Eksteen.
Eksteen said the boy remained with his mother, who lived in Paraguay and Florida and denied Eksteen access to his son at various times before she returned to New Jersey to live in Long Valley, where she remained was for the last three years, according to Eksteen.
He said his ex-wife’s visa was close to expiring and he had a feeling that she would try to return to Paraguay with their son. so He filed a motion in Morris County Family Court to prevent her from doing so.
Hoping to watch his son play football the morning of Nov. 2, Eksteen said he experienced had a sinking feeling on the morning of Nov. 2 when his son did not show up for a football game.
“I had a feeling that something was very wrong, even the night before when I spoke with my son over the phone. He said he had hurt his leg and might not be playing football the next day — but his voice didn’t sound right,” Eksteen said.
After returning to his home to look for his son that morning, Eksteen contacted the Washington Township Police Department and reported that his son had been kidnapped. The local police then contacted the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office.
According to the a Washington Township police report dated Nov. 3, Sgt. Brian Szymanski contacted Brady’s law firm and was advised that the firm said it had been in contact with Berdichevsky on Nov. 1 but she refused on Nov. 1 to surrender her son’s passport.
Szymanski also stated in the report that Cpl. David Marut was sent went to Berdichevsky’s residence home at 35 Squire Hill Road in Long Valley and determined that the contents of the apartment had been packed up and she was not there, according to the report.
Szymanski said he was then advised by an assistant prosecutor to report the child as a missing person which he did.
He said An all-points bulletin was issued with for Berdichevsky, ‘s personal and vehicle information and New Jersey registration. In addition and the Port Authority Police Department was contacted and given details about the case and possible destinations.
Szymanski said in the report that he received a return phone call from Port Authority police informed m Szymanski that Berdichevsky and her son had boarded TAM AIR Flight number 8083, to Brazil, which was scheduled to arrive in Sao Paulo, Brazil, at 7:20 p.m. ET on Nov. 2, Port Authority police told Szymanski.
According to Eksteen said he has done everything he has been asked to do, including retaining an attorney and supplying the U.S. State Department with every piece of all the information it has requested.
“All I want is to hold my son again. He is my life,” Eksteen said.
Eksteen said he has been able to talk to Keanu his son via videoconference on his phone, but he is worried that worries his son is not getting adequate care and is living in a dangerous environment.
His ex-wife said the boy eats well and is attending a private school. According to Eksteen, A relative of Rosita’s Berdichevsky’s is paying the tuition, Eksteen said.
Eksteen contacted the U.S. State Department of State In early November, the State Department advised Eksteen and was informed that he could apply to seek a remedy under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which he did.
The U.S. and Paraguay in 2008 entered into a partnership under the treaty, which provides an avenue of recourse when a child has been wrongfully taken to Paraguay. – which establishes a legal framework that is an avenue of recourse when a child has been wrongfully retained in Paraguay.
In a communication dated Nov. 5, 2013, from Jeff Dawkins, Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. State Department, A foreign court reviewing a Hague application is likely to look at the custodial rights as they existed at the time of removal, a State Department official told Eksteen.
Eksteen said that during the three years before Berdichevsky’s departure, when living in Long Valley for the last three years, his son spent half his time with his mother and half of the time with him.
Berdichevsky said that while living in Long Valley, Berdichevsky said she worked as a housekeeper and cook.
Eksteen owns Long Valley Auto Works, a repair shop.
“His mother put him on the bus in the morning, and every day after school we spent time together and during football season – at his games. He also spent every weekend with me,” Eksteen said.
In an e-mail dated Aug. 11, Elizabeth Finan, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Consular Affairs Press Office, stated that it is the bureau’s policy not to said the bureau doesn’t discuss the specifics of individual cases with members of the media but they are it is aware of the case and providing all possible assistance.
In general, Finan said that international parental child abduction is a crime under the laws of the United States and many foreign countries. In some cases, an abducting parent may be charged with a federal crime under the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act, she said.
In an email to Eksteen, Michael A. Goldschmidt, country officer for with the Office of Children’s Issues for the State Department, said that Keanu’s case file is at the office of the judge presiding over the matter in is awaiting action from a judge in Paraguay and awaiting his judgment on what should happen next.
Parsippany-based family law expert Bari Weinberger, who is not connected to the Eksteen case but has experience in international child custody disputes, said Paraguay could honor a New Jersey court order requiring the boy be returned to the United States but it also could determine that the boy now is domiciled in that country and that it they have has jurisdiction over the matter.
“If Paraguay is honorable to the Hague pact, the reality is they need to give full faith and credit to (the New Jersey) court order and surrender that child,” Weinberger said.
In the Morris County case involving the Mendham Township man whose wife took their children to Uzbekistan, a judge made multiple rulings ruled repeatedly that New Jersey had jurisdiction and ordered the wife to return the children. But the court orders were ignored until the ex-couple made private arrangements for the children to visit with their father in America.
In the Nigerian case, the husband, Longy Anyanwu, ignored a judicial order to produce his daughters and was kept in the Morris County Jail for nearly five years on a contempt of court charge.
A judge ultimately appointed a special master of Nigerian ethnicity, who promptly traveled overseas and found one daughter living with her uncle in Lagos. The second daughter had died of an intestinal disorder in the country. The Morris County judge had a teleconference with the daughter, who clarified said that she wished to remain living in Nigeria with her father’s relatives.
Eksteen said that during the last 10 months his case has been passed along, and his frustration is mounting.
“I would do anything for my son,” Eksteen he said. “I just miss him so much. I look at all of his toys, and they just sit there idle. I wish I could make breakfast for him and spend time with him. This is just killing me.”
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