By Patrick Markey
Sean Davis came home from work to his Manhattan apartment on July 25 and found a small note waiting for him on top of the TV. His girlfriend, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, native Sarah Jane Sylvia, had gone to visit a friend, the note read.
Then, Davis said, he started to notice things were missing: their son’s strollers, the baby boy’s reading book. Fifteen minutes later, the panic started to creep in; he realized she had left with their son, Kyle. Only a few days later did he find out she had left for Ireland.
More than two months after he says Sylvia disappeared with Kyle and made her way back to Letterkenny, Davis, who’s 32, is fighting to have his 5-month-old son returned to America, where the New York City legal authorities will decide who should have custody. Kyle’s mother has called only once since she left and her family have no telephone in Ireland, Davis said.
"My whole life is my son. My life is at a standstill until he is back," he said.
Davis, an actor and barman in Manhattan, has filed an application under the Hague Convention to have Kyle brought back to the United States and is working with the non-profit group National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to return his son, who his lawyers say was wrongfully removed from America.
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A contact for Sylvia and her family could not be obtained by this newspaper’s deadline.
Under the Hague Convention, to which both the United States and Ireland are signatories, children who have been wrongfully taken abroad by one parent can be returned to their habitual origin. That returns the situation to the status quo, allows the local legal system to decide custody, and prevents cases of international child abduction, according to Davis’s attorney, Linda Shay Gardner, who specializes in Hague Convention cases.
Gardner believes Davis has a solid case under the framework laid out by the convention. Based on information that Davis has given, his legal representatives charge that Kyle’s habitual residence is New York and that Davis’s custody rights were breached when his son was wrongly removed.
If Kyle is returned to the United States, the local courts would decide the suitability of both parents. A Hague application has been delivered to authorities in Dublin and a hearing is expected in Ireland soon, lawyers for Davis said.
The couple met a year and a half ago when Sylvia, 25, visited the Manhattan restaurant where Davis was working. Two months after they started living together, she became pregnant, Davis said. He admits that the relationship could have been handled better. Two months before Sylvia left there had been an argument, which Davis says may have signaled the end of the relationship. He had initially considered abortion and adoption.
"In hindsight, there are a lot of things that I did in this relationship, but at the same time I love my boy," he said. "Everything is secondary to that now."
"I don’t want to pull Sarah Jane from my son entirely. But regardless of our problems, the idea of using my son as a pawn is wrong," he said.
Sylvia also visited the Manhattan Archdiocese Catholic Charities, where, Davis says, she filed an application for an Irish passport for her son. An archdiocese spokesman said that matter is under investigation at the center and that because of client confidentiality he could not comment.
Gardner has handled similar cases. Recently, she helped return a 6-year-old girl to her American father after her English mother fled first to Ireland and then to Scotland. According to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 300,000 children a year are abducted by one of their family members.