Mother hopes for Christmas reunion with son caught in custody battle
By Mike Nolan and Donna Vickroy firstname.lastname@example.org December 12, 2013 8:22PM
Updated: January 14, 2014 1:03PM
Where 6-year-old John “Jack” Redmond lives, and with who, is a question that ultimately will be decided in a courtroom.
But the boy’s Orland Park mother — involved in a years-long custody battle spanning both sides of the Atlantic — hopes a federal judge’s ruling this week will bring him back home from Ireland in time for Christmas.
Mary Redmond — who met her son’s father while attending community college in Ireland, where he and the boy live — said Thursday she “cannot even describe how happy I am. I cannot wait to get that little boy back in my arms again.”
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Norgle, after initially siding with the boy’s father, Derek Redmond, keeping Jack in Ireland, ruled Wednesday that he should be returned to his mom. His decision follows a higher court ruling this past summer also ordering that the boy be reunited with his mom.
Still, it’s just a piece of paper, and Jack’s father has demonstrated in court he’s not likely to easily give up his claim to his son. An Irish court previously found he has equal standing in deciding the boy’s upbringing and where he should live, but both he and Mary are arguing the matter of custody in Cook County Circuit Court.
It’s not just a matter of Mary Redmond simply hopping on a plane and reclaiming the boy she gave birth to in March 2007 in Blue Island, and she realizes that.
“Now we wait to see if Jack’s father will comply with the order. The U.S. State Department has been in contact with the Irish Central Authority to work out the details to get Jack home,” she said Thursday. “Right now we have the order for Jack to come back to Illinois. But the other part of this battle is in the state court. Jack’s father is trying to register (in Cook County) the Irish custody order he got in Ireland.”
Mary Redmond — who, like her son, has dual citizenship in both the United States and Ireland — was 19 when she left for Ireland to attend community college. The couple, who lived together for more than a decade but were never married, agreed the child should be born in the U.S. but raised in Ireland.
Their relationship deteriorated and in November 2007, when the boy was a little less than 8 months old, Mary packed up her son and went back to Orland Park, touching off a 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, according to court filings.
In February 2011, an Irish court granted joint custody and guardianship of the child, and Mary had promised the judge she’d return, with Jack, after traveling to the U.S. to wrap up her affairs, according to court documents.
She didn’t, however, and Jack’s father had alleged Mary had run afoul of international child abduction laws, prompting the federal case. She also was found in contempt of the Irish court ruling by her failure to return.
Norgle had, in June 2012, ordered the boy be returned to his father, but a federal appellate panel this past July overturned his decision, sending it back to the judge who this week sided with their opinion.
The appellate court found that Mary, as legal guardian, had “exclusive right to decide where he (Jack) would live,” and that the baseball-loving boy — he’s a big fan of the White Sox’s Paul Konerko — was “too firmly rooted in Illinois to consider Ireland his home,” noting he’d spent most of his life in Orland Park, surrounded by his extended family.
“The everyday details of his life confirm that Illinois was home” to the child, and that his “ties to Ireland were tenuous,” the court found.
Still, the court’s chief judge, Frank Easterbrook, in that same opinion pointed out that Mary Redmond had “defied” the Irish court by spiriting Jack back to the U.S. and staying there.
By that action she had “disqualified herself as a candidate for favorable treatment by the judiciary of any state or nation,” Easterbrook wrote, while adding that “nothing we (the appellate panel) say here is likely to affect (the boy’s) ultimate placement.”
Mary Redmond, in her custody filing in Cook County in March 2011, alleged that Jack’s father had a drinking problem and had abused her. Derek Redmond’s attorney, David Schaffer, did not return a call Thursday seeking comment on Norgle’s ruling.
The judge’s ruling gives Jack’s mom hope that he will be back home for the holiday.
“I really hope he’ll be home for Christmas,” Mary Redmond said. “All of the ornaments on the tree were made by Jack. It is Jack’s job to put the angel at the top of the tree, so the angel waits on a table until Jack gets home.”