The Arabian peninsula nation of Yemen has been in a state of civil war since 2015. The United Nations reports that roughly 100,000 people have fled the country. The conflict has also had a significant impact on the children who remain in the country. For instance, the UN noted that roughly 2 million children have been forced to drop out of school.
It is understandable that many Yemeni parents desperately want to get their children out of the country.
Unfortunately, that is not always legally possible. A recent decision from a judge in Brooklyn, New York, illustrates the barriers that some Yemeni parents face.
The case, Matter of Karimah v. Bassim A., involves the Yemeni-born parents of four children.
The family regularly lived and traveled between the U.S. and Yemen. In 2016, the mother said the father made a “unilateral” decision to keep the children in Yemen.
The mother said this was the beginning of a long pattern of abuse on the husband's part.
During this time, the mother continued to live in the U.S. The children remained with the husband. In October 2019, the mother filed a petition in Brooklyn Supreme Court. She asked for an order of protection against the father. She also demanded the father return the children to New York and remain in the state to resolve the issue of custody. But on February 3, 2020, Supreme Court Justice Javier E. Vargas granted the father's motion to dismiss the mother's petitions.
Syracuse child custody lawyer Richard J. Bombardo explained the Brooklyn court simply lacked the authority to hear the mother's case.
“New York is subject to the Uniform Child Custody & Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act. This law states that custody disputes must normally be heard in the child's 'home state.' Here, the children have lived for more than three years in Yemen with their mother's consent. Yemen was therefore their home state, so the Brooklyn court lacked jurisdiction.”
While a New York court can exercise “temporary emergency jurisdiction” in certain cases, Justice Vargas declined to do so here. The judge noted there was no evidence that the father “has harmed the children.” And while Yemen remains a “dangerous place” due to the ongoing civil war, the mother could not show any “imminent risk” to the children. Nevertheless, the judge said he was “optimistic” that the father would “consider his daughters' best interests” in making future decisions regarding their welfare.