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From Ukraine to Russia: A safer boy, but not close to the US dad

Cesar Quintana cried for weeks over the fact that his 2-year old son would not make it out of Mariupol, the coastal port in Ukraine. Russian troops had encircled the city.

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From Ukraine to Russia: A safer boy, but not close to the US dad

He did, and it was a great thing.

Alexander and his mother now live in Russia. Quintana has full legal custody in California. Quintana is not closer to seeing the boy again.

Quintana has been trying bring his son back to the U.S., since his ex-wife took the child to Ukraine in 2020 without Quintana's consent. When war broke out, Quintana was trying to get the boy back through a Ukrainian court. He lost contact with them.

He learned last month that the family of Mariupol and others fled across the nearest international border to Russia, contrary to the millions of Ukrainians fleeing to Poland or Moldova.

Russia is, however, not an American partner under the international treaty that governs return of overseas children taken by their parents. Ukraine, however, is. Quintana hopes that the Ukrainian court will reopen his case and that he can force any Russian authorities to grant him a favorable ruling. Quintana said that he is also trying to convince his ex-wife, Antonina Aslanova (a Ukrainian-American woman), to return to California by herself.

Quintana stated, "I'm not giving in, and my boy's not going growing up in Russia."

Aslanova did not respond to a WhatsApp message that sought comment.

Advocates say that international parental child abduction cases can be complex and that very few children are returned to their home countries. According to the Hague Conference on Private International Law, more than 2,000 cases were filed under an international treaty that establishes a process for resolving these cases. About 45% of those cases resulted in the children being reunited.

Although many countries have signed the treaty it isn’t yet in force between the United States of America and Russia. This makes it very difficult to get a child back, according to Melissa Kucinski, an attorney based in Washington who specializes in such cases.

Kucinski stated that the father's California custody order would likely mean little with the child sitting in Russia.

Quintana (35), has been trying to return his son through the treaty process in Ukraine for over a year. A California judge had ordered that the boy be returned. Quintana went to Ukraine and hired a lawyer to get Aslanova to allow him to bring the boy to California. He said that her mother was against him and filed a police complaint, which stopped him.

A critical court hearing was held in February, but it was moved to March due to the war.

According to the U.S. State Department website, Ukraine has stated that it will not be able to honor its treaty obligations during war. Although the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv has been closed, the State Department stated that it can provide consular assistance to Americans once they have reached another country.

A department official stated that the U.S. government is unable to provide emergency or routine services to Russian citizens.

Quintana was driven to despair by the war. Aslanova received the money he sent, but communications were cut when Mariupol was under siege. Quintana sought permission from Ukrainian officials to travel to Ukraine to locate his son after he was unable to reach him. When Quintana told him that the State Department had confirmed Aslanova's identity, he was about to book a flight to Europe.

Quintana stated that he spoke to Aslanova shortly after Aslanova was released from Mariupol. Quintana said that she had been considering returning to California, but she was hesitant because she faces criminal charges of child abduction as well as driving under the influence. Quintana was compelled to apply for custody in 2020.

He said, "She is concerned about jail." "Why should my son suffer because of her?"

Noelle Hunter, cofounder of the iStand Parent Network said that a voluntary agreement in such cases is usually the best. Quintana asked the district attorney to drop the abduction case if Aslanova returned, but the prosecutors have yet to do so. She said that officials from the State Department offered to expedite documents in case Aslanova leaves Russia to take the child to another country.

Hunter said that parents who have had their children taken abroad cannot just "sit on our hands." "We must be prepared."

The Orange County District Attorney's Office declined to comment on the matter.

According to a letter sent by Ukrainian prosecutors to Orange County prosecutors, Quintana was divorcing with Aslanova.

Quintana received a custody order, which allowed Aslanova to visit Quintana's home in December 2020. He said that Quintana took the boy to the airport while he was still asleep and then boarded a flight to Turkey, and another flight to Ukraine.


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