• Man fights to return children from Costa Rica

    By: Carl Willis

    Updated:

    COBB COUNTY, Ga. - A Cobb County custody battle is drawing the attention of the U.S. State Department.

    The mother of two Cobb County girls born and raised in Austell has taken the children to her native Costa Rica.

    "These things are happening on a daily basis," said attorney Michael Manely.

    The woman's husband, Christopher Camacho, said that she told him she was just taking the girls there to visit their grandparents. Soon after, he said his wife decided that she didn't want to be married anymore and that she and the children weren’t coming home.

    "We're going on 11 months since I've seen my girls, and she's never picked up the phone or emailed me to say, ‘Let's work something out,’" Camacho said.

    Channel 2 Action News obtained a copy of the lawsuit Camacho and his attorney filed in Cobb County. It shows that Camacho was granted temporary custody, but he said that doesn't hold much weight if the girls are being kept out of the country.

    "I've never been an absentee dad, and I'm not going to start now," he said. "If it takes me fighting to stay active and involved and connected with them until they're old enough to make some decisions on their own, then that's what I'll do."

    This week, he plans to fly to Costa Rica with his lawyer for a custody trial. The proceedings will determine where the girls will live as the court decides what's best for them.

    Manely said the law is clear under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The international treaty focuses on the child's habitual residence before an alleged wrongful removal takes place.

    "The test is: where did the girls live before the action was filed," Manely said. "There's a one-year period under the convention that says if the action is brought within a year of their removal, then the return is mandatory."

    Manely said the U.S. State Department will have a formal observer in Camacho's trial on Friday.

    He said that will be a first since the department criticized Costa Rica's record in following the letter of the law.

    Camacho said he's just ready for his day in court.

    "My intention is not to take the kids away from their mother, or their mother away from them," he said. "I just want to bring them back to where they were born and raised and the only home they know."

    Manely said the mother recently claimed that theirs was an abusive relationship.

    He said there are no police reports or charges filed that support the claim.


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