Mom tries to ‘stay strong’ as she waits for son
By Mike Nolan firstname.lastname@example.org July 9, 2014 8:30PM
Mary Redmond of Orland Park, Illinois, holds back a tear as she describes the legal struggle to get her son, Jack, back from Ireland, July 9, 2014.| Allen Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 10, 2014 2:10AM
Near the front door of her parents’ Orland Park home, Mary Redmond has a picture of her son wearing a batting helmet when he played T-ball on an Orland Youth Association team.
“It’s so I stay strong,” she said.
Two years ago Thursday, her mom and John “Jack” Redmond, then 5, boarded a jet for a trip to Ireland, obeying the ruling of a federal judge in Chicago that the boy be returned to his father in that country.
Jack is still there, despite a decision in December by the same judge that she hoped would return Jack to Orland Park. Redmond has not seen him since he left for Ireland and remains embroiled in a years-long custody fight with the boy’s father.
“I just want him home,” she said Wednesday. “Jack should have the right to grow up in this country.”
She talks with him through Skype, and when she goes shopping lets him pick out, via phone, toys such as Star Wars figures and Legos that she sends to him. They talk about sports — he’s a huge fan of White Sox player Paul Konerko, who last year sent Redmond a box filled with autographed items, including caps and a bobblehead doll.
But they avoid discussing the court case, Redmond said.
“He remembers so many things, so many little things that I don’t remember,” she said.
It’s a complex and costly case, and Redmond and her mom, Peggy, said the family can no longer afford the legal costs that amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“We’re tapped out,” Peggy Redmond said.
Mary Redmond has an ongoing custody case in Cook County Circuit Court, but the law firm that has been representing her asked the judge to let it withdraw from the case because of unpaid bills.
“Everything we’ve won could be lost,” Redmond said.
The judge is expected to rule on the firm’s request July 31, and Redmond said she’s unsure how she might find another law firm to take up the case.
“This is a very specialized case,” she said.
Redmond said Jack’s father has not complied with the federal judge’s most recent ruling that Jack should be returned to the U.S.
David Schaffer, an attorney representing Jack’s dad, Derek Redmond, said Wednesday that his client isn’t in violation of that order, and Mary Redmond is free to travel to Ireland to retrieve her son.
“This boy would love to see his mother in Ireland,” Schaffer said, noting that Jack is “thriving” there.
Mary Redmond was 19 when she left for Ireland to attend community college. That’s where she met Jack’s father, and although the couple lived together for more than a decade, they never married. Jack was born in Blue Island in March 2007, but she and Derek returned to Ireland two weeks later.
Their relationship deteriorated, and in November 2007, when the boy was about 8 months old, Mary left Ireland with Jack and went back to Orland Park, touching off the legal battle, according to court filings.
Irish law doesn’t recognize unmarried fathers in custody disputes, and Derek spent more than three years in court to establish his paternity rights, court records show.
In February 2011, an Irish court granted joint custody and guardianship of the child, and Mary, who had returned to Ireland for the hearing, promised the judge that she would return with Jack, after traveling to the U.S. to wrap up her affairs, according to court documents.
She didn’t return to Ireland, however, and Derek alleged that she had violated international child abduction laws, prompting the federal case. She also was found in contempt of the Irish court ruling by her failure to return with Jack.
In June 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Norgle in Chicago ordered the boy to be returned to his father, but a federal appeals court overruled Norgle, sending the case back to him to reverse his prior order. The appeals court found that Mary, as legal guardian, had “exclusive right to decide where he (Jack) would live,” and that the boy was “too firmly rooted in Illinois to consider Ireland his home.”
“Everything he knew was here, his home and family,” Redmond said Wednesday.
In his decision in December, Norgle said that while the U.S. should be Jack’s home, it would be an “abuse of discretion” to compel Derek to return him in light of the Irish court’s earlier ruling.
Mary Redmond said that because of the contempt-of-court ruling by the Irish judge, she fears she would risk being jailed if she travels there. Schaffer said Redmond could clear up the contempt matter in Ireland, and that the courts “have no desire to incarcerate a mother.”
Redmond is now involved with an organization, iStand Parent Network, whose members include parents of children “who were wrongly removed to or detained in a foreign country,” and she’s trying to get area members of Congress to intercede on her behalf. Redmond, who does bookkeeping and website design for small businesses, said she’s also starting a website,