SNOWMASS, Colo. -- Argentina’s Supreme Court has sided with a Snowmass, Colo. dad in an international custody dispute.
It’s been more than four years since Dennis Burns said his kids were smuggled out of the United States.
The 45-year old said his ex-wife took the couple’s two young daughters to her native Argentina and despite numerous court rulings, refuses to give them back.
The Argentina Supreme Court has ruled the girls belong in Colorado but reunification may still be months away. The Argentina Supreme Court recently sent the case back to a lower court to enforce its ruling.
Burns’s ex-wife, Ana Alianeli, took then 3-year-old Victoria and 1-year old Sophia to Alianeli’s home country of Argentina in September 2010.
The parental kidnapping violated a court ruling that gave Burns primary custody.
"It`s been four years and I`m now at a point where I haven`t been able to Skype with them or even see them in more than a year,” said Burns.
He was supposed to have at least three Skype visits a week with his daughters, now ages 7 and 5, but his ex-wife cut those off last year, despite a court ruling mandating the internet chats.
Burns has multiple court victories on his side but his ex-wife has the children, thanks to endless appeals in Argentina.
“All these appeals take time and it’s just playing with the system,” said Caroline Langley, Burns attorney.
Langley is based in Hong Kong and specializes in international custody disputes. She said it’s rare to see a case drag on so long when one parent keeps winning in court.
"These are American children. They are hostages, so why aren`t we acting in the manner that we would with anyone who`s taken as a hostage?” asked Langley.
Burns and his attorney said they’re gratified by the supreme court ruling but frustrated that it took so long. Burns admits he worries this two daughters have been brainwashed against him, by a mom whose had time on her side.
"I'm sure my daughters ask on their birthdays or holidays, ‘Can we talk to Papa?’ What is she telling them? I doubt she`s telling them, `No, because I won`t let you,'" said Burns.
The U.S. State department reported that last year, more than a thousand children were victims of international kidnappings. In August, the U.S. Congress passed a law that imposes sanctions on countries that ignore international law on custody disputes but it’s not retroactive so it doesn’t help Dennis Burns.