Says Lawlor, “When an abducted child is brought back to its habitual residence, it’s original jurisdiction, you have to take all forms of precaution. There are so many laws, both federal and state, and by the time you’re done learning how they can affect you you’re nearly an attorney yourself.”
Lawlor had won full custody of his son, and now he had a ruling mandating the boy’s return to the U.S. McAuliffe, however, made an immediate appeal.
In return for Liam she asked her ex-husband to sign away his right to file any criminal charge against her. He was also asked to pay accommodation charges, to pay for airfare to the U.S. for mother and son, and to provide money for Liam.
Lawlor complied with each of these requests, but on August 3, 2009 McAuliffe did not appear with Liam as agreed. Instead she fled with the boy and her Albanian partner. A British High Court collection order was quickly filed against them, and the couple was eventually discovered in Essex.
Liam was delivered to a relative’s house in London where Lawlor picked him up on August 7, 2009. By August 8 father and son were back in the U.S.
But by October 19 McAuliffe had requested and received the right to telephone the boy twice a week for 15 minutes.
“What I can’t figure out is that I won full custody of Liam Jack, so what part of that can’t the Bronx District Attorney’s Office understand? It’s just an unwritten policy I guess -- father’s are given less rights, the want the status quo to work,” says Lawlor.
“They do not want fathers to get custody of their children. Now I can understand why some men walk away the way they do. This is the hardest battle I ever fought for the love of my son.”
And why is Lawlor prepared to fight so hard? “The reason is the first hand behavior of my ex-wife and her family that I have never seen the likes of before. I could not accept that my son would grow up in that environment, there’s no way I could accept it,” he said.
“I’ve come up with the money to fight this, and right now I have to worry about Liam. I want people who read the Irish Voice to see what an Irish emigrant and a father have to do in this country to seek out the love of a child. A simple thing that should be recognized.”
Lawlor does not fear any legal challenge to his custody of his son, based on the past behavior of his ex-wife, he says.
“Anyone in their right mind is going to say here we have someone who has issues with authority and self-control. If I thought she was good for Liam I would accommodate her in every way, and I would be happy to do so. But I have seen the violence, hatred, anger and bigotry in her home, and I can not accept that’s an environment for my child.”
Asked why he wants to pursue prosecution now, Lawlor says he wants to demonstrate that fathers have rights too.
“It comes down to my love for my son and how I was raised, my own family values. If there’s leniency handed down that sends the message that the other party can continue doing what they’re doing,” he says.
“If I know I can walk in off the street, make claims against the other party, or falsely accuse them, and keep the child while alienating them against the other parent and get away with it, what’s to stop me from doing it? Especially if I have money behind me to keep the ball rolling, keep the pressure on.
“I’m all for equal rights. But no one will understand what I’ve been put through until they’re actually brought in front of a court to seek judgment for the love of their own children. The truth will reveal itself, it always does. So I am feeling confident about this prosecution. Your lies eventually catch up with you.”