x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

'Missing' Dubai toddler returns to mother

An American toddler, ruled missing by a US judge in May, will return to her mother after a UAE court decided to honour the foreign custody order.

Stacy Peters and her daughters Caroline and Lily. Mrs Peters was recently awarded custody of her older daughter by a Dubai court.
Stacy Peters and her daughters Caroline and Lily. Mrs Peters was recently awarded custody of her older daughter by a Dubai court.

DUBAI // The American toddler at the centre of an international custody case has been returned to her mother after a Dubai court honoured a foreign custody order.

Caroline Peters, 21 months, had been ruled missing in May by a US judge, although she had never left her home in Dubai.

Her mother, Stacy Peters, left the girl in March after her husband pressed charges against her for adultery and drug abuse.

Although Mrs Peters had been awarded custody of Caroline in Tennessee, the UAE did not initially enforce the foreign order.

Mrs Peters returned to Dubai in September, where she gave birth to the couple's second daughter, Lily, and worked with the local court system to have Caroline returned.

"Finally, after seven months I have my little girl back," she said. "I'm ecstatic that hopefully this will all be over soon, and I will be back in the US with my daughter."

Caroline's father, Charles Peters, is an instructor for the UAE Armed Forces and had been working for custody of the child in Dubai courts.

But when the Dubai Family Law Court gave custody to Mrs Peters last week, based on the US judgment, he initially refused to hand over the toddler.

Mr Peters was arrested and held for several days, but said he and Mrs Peters would return to the US together to come to a custody agreement.

"Three days away from your daughter makes you see things differently," Mr Peters said. "I don't want to fight with Stacy any more. I just want for us to figure things out."

International child custody cases are particularly convoluted in the UAE, because the country is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which outlines the procedures for returning a child across borders.

Diana Hamade, a lawyer in Dubai and founder of International Advocate Legal Services, said the UAE was not a signatory as foreign orders might conflict with Sharia rulings.

"It is not so unusual for the courts here to recognise a foreign order if it is in line with local law and the best interests of the child," she said.

jthomas@thenational.ae