Legal Question in Family Law in Utah

My sister is Swedish and married to an American, they live in the US and they have a little daughter together. My sister has a permanent green card and is allowed to work and live in the US. Her husband is extremely abusive and has hit her badly several times, the police have been involved and he has been in prison at least 2 times for this. There are several police reports about his behaviour / drugs and alcohol abuse... My sister has tried to get a divorce, but finally ends up going back to him... until the next time he beats her up...

I am afraid that the child protection agency will get involved and take their daughter... is there anything we as her family can do? Could we claim for her protection and be named guardians and get custody, even though we live in another country? What does my sister need to do to be able to take her daughter and leave the US legally? Thank you for any answer as this situation is only getting worse...

Asked on 6/18/13, 3:54 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Alvin Lundgren Alvin R. Lundgren, L.C.

Your sister needs intervention, and should take refuge in a local women's shelter. She needs psychiatric help.

There are no laws that require that your sister remain in the US. Your sister can return to Sweden for a visit - long enough to get a divorce in Sweden. However, because of her unhealthy state of mind that it is unlikely that she would do that.

If she would agree to get psychiatric help, she may get enough help to be strong enough to assert her independence.

She may call for a free consultation (801) 725-0980. By the way, my grandparents are from Sverige - Oland and Norrland.

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Answered on 6/18/13, 10:02 am

Cory Wall Cory R. Wall, Attorney at Law, P.C.

First and foremost, she should seek and obtain a protective order to get him away from her and so she can get immediate emergency custody of their daughter. She needs to seek professional help. If she doesn't do anything to protect her daughter from being exposes to the abuse, DCFS could take the child on the basis of the abuse and on the basis of your sister failing to protect the child from the exposure to the abuse. Should that occur, the first people the state will look to for placement of the child would be family members. Family could file a guardianship proceeding but it would have to be here in Utah where the child resides. I think under the circumstances, the court would grant the guardianship even if the father contested or opposed it.

She is certainly free to go to Sweden if she would like. However, the concern I have is that if she takes the child with her, the father could immediately file for divorce in Utah which has jurisdiction over custody of the child and he could seek an order requiring the child's return to the United States. Also, she may have some difficulty getting the child out of the country in the first place without the father's permission. If he gives that permission, then she could go with the child with the understanding the father could commence legal proceedings here which may require her to return.

Frankly, she needs to get the courage to simply file for divorce here in Utah, obtain custody of the child and work through the details of the father's parent time with her living in Sweden.

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Answered on 6/19/13, 8:24 am

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