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Int'l Child Custody Dispute Ends With Tearful Reunion

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on January 19, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An international child custody battle ended with a joyous reunion at a New York City airport, as cab driver Eugene Pothy hugged the son he hadn't seen in eight years.

"Why are you crying?" Pothy's 10-year-old son, Philippe-Emmanuel, asked his father in French. "Just for you," Pothy replied, according to the New York Daily News.

Philippe-Emmanuel's return to the United States marks an end to an international child-custody battle between his father in New Jersey and his mother's relatives in the African nation of Ivory Coast.

Philippe-Emmanuel's mother sent her son to live with her relatives in the Ivory Coast in 2003. At the time, she felt overwhelmed with college and childcare commitments, she told the Daily News.

Eugene Pothy expected his son to return in six months, but the boy's African relatives refused to let him go, Pothy told the Daily News. After years of pleading to no avail, Pothy contacted the State Department last spring.

International child custody disputes generally fall under the purview of the Hague Convention on International Parental Child Abduction. The Hague Convention requires a court to return a child to his nation of origin if the child's removal violates a parent's right to custody.

The problem? The United States has agreed to abide by the Hague Convention, but the Ivory Coast has not.

Enter self-proclaimed anti-child-abduction specialist Peter Thomas Senese, whose "I CARE Foundation" brokered a deal between Pothy and his son's mother, who still lives in the United States, the Daily News reports. A judge in New Jersey approved the deal, and the boy's Ivory Coast relatives complied.

Philippe-Emmanuel will now live with his father and 6-year-old sister after his international child custody ordeal. So how did the boy recognize his father after eight long years? "From Facebook, I knew him," Philippe-Emmanuel said.

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