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Russia awaits Rich ruling on Hansen

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Russian officials have filed documents in Bedford County's juvenile court, saying they want to wait until a local judge rules on a child support case dealing with a boy sent back to Moscow by his adoptive mother before moving forward in that country.

In late December, a lawyer representing Torry Hansen filed a motion to dismiss child support claims made by Hansen's adoption agency, the World Association for Children and Parents (WACAP).

Hansen caused an international uproar last April after she sent then 7-year-old Justin Hansen on a plane to Moscow by himself with a note saying that she didn't want to be his adoptive mother anymore because the child was violent and had psychological problems.

Russian authorities have stated they want Hansen to pay about $2,500 a month to care for the child, who is currently living in an orphanage.

A letter to Bedford County Juvenile Court Judge Charles Rich from the Children's Rights Commissioner for the President of the Russian Federation, Pavel Astakahov, stated that documents filed in Shelbyville indicate that the two adoption agencies intend to present a petition to halt the legal proceeding in the Russian court until Rich makes a judgement on the case.

The United States and Russia have not concluded an agreement on mutual legal assistance and it is not guaranteed that the Russian court ruling would be legally binding in Tennessee, Astakahov wrote to Rich.

"To recover alimony from Torry Hansen, we have to receive judgement of the U.S. Court ... and accept it valid and binding in the territory of the Russian federation," the letter read.

According to translated documents filed last Tuesday, Justin has been a foster child of State Educational Institution Orphan Home No. 19 "Foster Care Center ... and has received full governmental provision in our institution since April 29, 2010 up to the present time."

The document was dated Jan. 14, 2011 and was signed by Leonid Lvovich Mityaev, director of the home.

Along with several documents that were filed in Bedford County Juvenile Court in the Russian language, a copy of the letter Torry Hansen left with Justin last April when he was sent back to Moscow was also included.

Hansen's former attorney, Trisha Henegar, argued that Bedford County's juvenile court lacks jurisdiction to order child support because Tennessee is not the boy's home state and said the termination of Hansen's parental rights is currently being handled by a Russian court.

Attorneys representing the two adoption agencies involved in the case blasted those arguments, saying it poses "a significant risk" to any adopted child whose parents find adjustment more difficult than expected.

Lawyers Larry L. Crain and Ray C. Stoner stated that Henegar's motion failed to address that there is no treaty that would allow a Russian court to enforce a child support order against Hansen and that the Russian Federation clearly recognizes that the Bedford County court is to establish support.

Crain represents WACAP while Stoner represents the National Council for Adoption (NCFA), which is identified in court papers as the designated liaison for Mityaev, the physical custodian of Justin in Moscow.

"If an adoptive parent in Tennessee could avoid their child support obligations by placing the child on an airplane to California just four months after they receive custody, then the statutes would be meaningless," Crain and Stoner wrote. "This argument is nothing more than a mockery of these child protection statutes."

Crain stated last May that WACAP went to court out of frustration that no one was investigating claims that the Hansens abandoned and endangered the child.

However, since the incident occurred last year, local authorities have said they have not been able to file any charges against the Hansens because there is no evidence that any crime was committed in Bedford County. The Hansens no longer live in Tennessee.

Henegar is no longer representing the Hansens; the case has been taken by Nashville attorney Jennifer Thompson.