In late December a state court judge in sentenced María José Carrascosa to 14 years in prison by a judge in New Jersey for failing to adhere to a court order that she return her daughter from Spain. The order was in relation to a child custody battle being waged internationally in the courts of Spain and the USA.

This case highlights the strange twists that can often occur in the real of international law, in large part due to the lack of a truly international structure for dealing with conflicts between tribunals. The case represents a conflict not only between ex husband and wife, but also between the United States and Spanish judiciaries. Ms. Carrascosa had been awarded custody of her minor child Victoria, while her husband was given custody in United States by the same judge who in December sentenced Ms. Carrascosa to the prison sentence.

Ms. Carrascosa was married to her husband from 1999 to 2004 and has since accused her ex husband of abuse. Ms. Carrascosa has always defended her decision to take her daughter to Spain, fleeing she claimed from the abuse of her ex-husband. After removing her daughter to Spain, she failed to comply with a court order issued by the High Court in New Jersey in August 2006 which ordered her, at her ex-husband’s request, to return her daughter to the USA. Ms. Carrasco, whose passport had been confiscated, went into hiding in the USA, where she was ultimately arrested in November, 2006.

This case exemplifies the need to have counsel who can guide you through legal proceedings that take place in multiple jurisdictions. There must be a good understanding of the law in each of the jurisdictions involved and then a strategy needs to be undertaken to prevail in each forum. Unfortunately, for Ms. Carrascosa it appears that her strategy was to rely on the fact that she did not kidnap her daughter and that she had a ruling from a Spanish court awarding her custody, but that is not enough.

One can only hope that the ending of this story is better than what has transpired thus far.