By Don Southerton, KoreaLegal.org Editor
Child custody cases draw much emotion. International child custody cases even more so, and occur when a parent leaves with the children or in this case refuses to abide to a court order. (See my article on Korea and the Hague Parental Child Abduction Convention HERE)
A New Jersey man is fighting for his family and defending his name after his wife took his children and accused him of abuse. Two young children are at the heart of an international custody battle, with their mother behind bars and their father fighting to clear his own name. Those circumstances dominated a routine status conference in the Bergen County Courthouse Friday morning.
The case involves Broadway violinist Alejandro Mendoza, who owns a popular music school in Tenafly, and the fallout from his troubled marriage to concern violinist Si Nae Shim, who’s currently being held in the Bergen County Jail on a charge of interference with custody.
Their problems began in the spring of last year, when Mendoza says he gave in to his wife’s wishes and moved the family back to her native South Korea, where he was hired as a university professor. However, he says he changed his mind after about two months and returned to the United States to explore getting a new job here.
“She did call me from Korea and tell me not to come back,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza did go back – with an order of custody from Bergen County courts – but he found his apartment in South Korea empty, and his wife and two young children were gone.
“No parent should ever have to go through what I have gone through for a year,” Mendoza said.
Around the same time, Shim – still in South Korea – accused Mendoza of sexually abusing their children, a charge Mendoza denies.
“This is the most devastating thing that can be done to a loving father, such a monstrous thing,” Mendoza said. ” This is going to hurt the children.”
While traveling in Guam, Shim was arrested for violating the custody order and extradited back to the United States. The children are still in South Korea, living with Shim’s family.
There are several issues on the table, and as attorneys for both sides try to resolve criminal charges and custody rights for the couple’s two children, Judge Carver is keeping everyone on a tight leash in the interest of putting the children first. Everyone is due back in court next Friday.