I have an 11-year-old boy who lived with his mother in the USA until she dies unexpectedly. His father left the family to move back to Ireland, where he was originally from, due to dissatisfaction with his marriage (additionally, he was abusive, but this probably never went on his record). However, both mother and father are very religious and did not legally divorce. The mother's will assured custody to the boy's older sister (who is about 22) if anything were to happen, and so the boy goes to live with her. Court is unable to locate the father, or he ignores court summons initially, so the boy lives with his sister for several months. The sister is a college drop-out and makes low income, but is still able to provide the necessities for her brother.
Eventually, the father comes back into the picture and wants to take custody of the boy. The older sister wants to keep her brother, especially since she remembers her father being abusive. However, I want the father to take custody of the boy despite this.
I talked a bit about this situation with my mother, who is a psychologist who has worked extensively in child custody cases. My understanding is that even if the father had a criminal record, even if he was abusive, this would not necessarily terminate his parental rights. If his abusive behavior was never brought to court, and the older sister only brings it up now, it will likely not hold as much weight. Even if the mother granted the older sister guardianship of the boy, this would not supersede the father's own parental rights. If the father showed up late and demanded guardianship, there would be some investigation as to why he didn't come forward earlier, and after some assessment about whether or not it's in the child's best interest to switch guardians, there is a good chance the father could take custody. It's, of course, very circumstantial. Searches also tell me that married couples automatically are considered to have joint guardianship in Ireland, though I've not yet found anything in particular about whether this would supersede a placement with a different guardian if the father is absent. Does this all seem accurate?
My questions are this:
1. What is the process for out-of-country parents claiming custody over US American children? How long would it be expected to take?
2. In particular, one of my story's issues is that the older sister is non-religious but the father has concerns and believes the boy should be raised Catholic - would religious objection from a father hold weight in the decision making process?
3. How would late accusations of abuse be treated realistically, or even if the father had a criminal record?
4. Could the father, being an Irish citizen, take the boy back to Ireland if the boy is American? What if the father tried to abduct the boy and bring him to Ireland? Hypothetically, what would the process of sorting that out be?
Thanks a ton for any help. :)
Searched: child custody Ireland, international child custody laws