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Bring Sean Home Foundation => International Abduction Cases => Athukorala => Topic started by: dhanika on March 07, 2010, 03:14:41 AM

Title: News Articles
Post by: dhanika on March 07, 2010, 03:14:41 AM
Here are three articles written by a newspaper in Western Massachusetts talking about my case:

This one contains an interview with Kali's abductor and her Attorney.  They (Kali's abductor and her Attorney) make some interesting claims from criminal charges in the Dominican Republic against me to Judicial Officials in Massachusetts overstepping their authority. (

This one is about the Hague Convention. (

This one is about the effect of custody disputes on children. (

This newspaper only allows you to view two articles per day so you may have to view these articles on separate days.
Title: Re: News Articles
Post by: dhanika on March 07, 2010, 03:40:28 AM
Update:  Sorry it looks like only the first article can be read without a subscription.  Seems like you may have to pay $1.99 for a 1 week subscription if you are interested in viewing the other two articles.
Title: Re: News Articles
Post by: dhanika on March 07, 2010, 08:31:30 AM
Update: You can actually read the second and third articles for free as well but you have to search for them via google.

For the article on the hague convention if you google for the words "Treaty confusing for nations" and click on the link to the article you can read that article.  It should be the first item if you use those terms.

For the article on the effect of custody disputes on children you can google "Custody battles hurt children, experts say".  Again the first item should be the link to the article.
Title: Re: News Articles
Post by: M.Capestro on March 08, 2010, 07:27:26 AM
Fighting for Kali: An international custody battle plays out in two countries' courts
By jlowe
Created 03/06/2010

NORTHAMPTON - Kali Soleil Athukorala Zemialkowski doesn't know about the bitter custody battle that has become the center of legal proceedings in two countries and turned her parents' lives upside down.

Now 2, Kali has spent most of her life in the Dominican Republic with her mother, Sandra C. Zemialkowski, (pronounced zem-all-KOW-ski).

Her father, Dhanika K. Athukorala (ahh-thoo-CORE-ahh-la) of Belchertown, has been trying to bring her back for two years.

Along the way a judge presided over the child custody case without Zemilakowski present, and awarded full legal custody of the girl to Athukorala.

After Zemialkowski ignored a court order to return Kali by April 13, 2009, the Northwestern district attorney's office began pursuing kidnapping charges against her. Zemialkowski has been indicted, but not arraigned, on a charge that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. For now, though, the case is at a standstill because the Dominican Republic does not agree Zemialkowski violated any laws.

In a recent telephone interview, Zemialkowski, 39, said she has been wronged - harassed by the father of her child as well as targeted by judicial officials trying to exceed their bounds.

"I just can't believe how far how far this charade has gone," Zemialkowski said by phone from Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic. "I feel abused. I feel taken advantage of."

Athukorala, 37, said Zemialkowski hasn't allowed him to see his daughter - in person or even by Web cam - in more than a year. He said Zemialkowski has made it impossible for him to have a relationship with his daughter. Even so, he said, he won't be deterred in his efforts to get Kali back.

"My biggest fear is that my daughter will look back someday and think I gave her up," Athukorala said in a recent interview at his lawyer's office in Northampton.

Unusual case

Custody disputes involving parents living in different countries are very rare for Hampshire Probate and Family Court, said Assistant Judicial Case Manager Beth Crawford. She said just two such cases were initiated in 2009.

"It's one of the most complicated areas of the law that we deal with," Crawford said.

It's also unusual, she said, for a custody case to progress as far at Athukorala's has. The vast majority of cases never go to trial, instead settled by the parents on their own or with help from mediators, she said.

Hampshire County saw 612 divorce cases and 301 paternity suits in fiscal 2009, according to state records. Crawford noted, however, that not all divorces involve child custody, and paternity cases may pertain to child support payments rather than custody.

Federal data indicates that in fiscal 2008 there were 1,082 cases of children abducted by a parent from the U.S. to foreign countries, including 25 to the Dominican Republic.

One high-profile case with similarities to Kali's is that of 9-year-old Sean Goldman, who was taken to Brazil by his mother. After five years of international legal wrangling, Sean's father brought him back to New Jersey last December.

A Web site established to advocate for Goldman's return now features information about Athukorala and other parents seeking the return of their children from other countries.

Legal wrinkles

The Dominican Republic, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is a sovereign nation. Although both the Dominican Republic and the U.S. have signed a treaty that deals specifically with international custody disputes, the two countries differ on how the treaty applies to Kali's case.

After Athukorala filed a petition through the U.S. State Department to have Kali returned to him, the Dominican government took Zemialkowski's side. In an undated letter, the National Council for Childhood and Adolescence opined that Hampshire Probate and Family Court Judge Gail Perlman misinterpreted the treaty, and didn't have the authority to make Athukorala the girl's sole legal guardian.

Read the Dominican's council's letter:
--In English [1] (
--In Spanish [2] (

Jose Grullon, Zemialkowski's lawyer in the Dominican Republic, said in a phone interview that Zemialkowski was within her rights to move with Kali. Because she and Athikorala were never married, he said in an email, Zemialkowski "is the only one invested with the authority to decide" where the child will live. Grullon said international law is on his client's side.

Zemialkowski was never obligated to take part in the custody proceedings Athukorala initiated in Family Court in 2008, Grullon said. In fact, he advised her not to return to the U.S. for a trial in the matter last year.

Grullon said not only is Perlman's order invalid, but the kidnapping indictment is, too.

A Hampshire Superior Court judge issued a warrant for Zemialkowski's arrest in November, on the same day she was indicted.

So far the warrant hasn't been executed. Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Jane Mulqueen said the two countries' disagreement over the treaty has left the kidnapping case at an impasse.

Zemialkowski said fighting Athukorala's custody suit and pursuing legal actions of her own has exhausted her family's financial resources. The process has taken an emotional toll as well, she said. "She has lost the peace and tranquility she needed to be in control of her life," Grullon said.

Relationship soured

Zemialkowski was born in Puerto Rico to an American father and a Dominican mother. She grew up in the Dominican Republic and now works there as a veterinarian.

Athukorala was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in the African nation of Lesotho, where his mother worked at the time. After moving to the U.S. in 1988, he attended Amherst Regional High School and the University of Massachusetts, and now works as a computer programmer in Springfield.

The two met in 2006 through an Internet dating service. Athukorala traveled several times to Florida, where Zemialkowski was working at a Dominican-owned veterinary clinic. They'd known each other only a few months when Zemialkowski became pregnant.

While they hadn't intended to have a child, Athukorala said they eventually decided to move in together in his newly built home at 1130 Federal St. in Belchertown, where his mother also lived, and raise the baby together.

Athukorala, a computer programmer, said the plan was for him to work and support the family while Zemialkowski worked on a degree in veterinary medicine.

According to court records, Zemialkowski and Athukorala lived together in Florida starting in November 2006.

In August 2007, they moved to Belchertown, and Kali was born later that month at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton.

Zemialkowski said she felt very isolated in Belchertown. "I didn't know a single soul," she said. To make matters worse, she said, there was no furniture in the house and she had to sleep on the floor.

Athukorala says this isn't true, and showed photographs to a Gazette reporter showing the house fully furnished, with Kali and Zemialkowski in the shots.

Zemialkowski took Kali to the Dominican Republic for the first time the following December. Zemialkowski said that, by that time, she and Athukorala had ended their relationship and it was understood that she and Kali would stay indefinitely.

Athukorala claims they hadn't broken up, and that Zemialkowski told him she planned to take Kali for only two weeks to visit her parents in Santo Domingo. "I'm trying to figure out what happened," Athukorala said. "There was no friction between us. Everything seemed to be going fine."

Court records indicate Athukorala agreed to let Zemialkowski keep Kali in the Dominican Republic for another two months.

But when that deadline passed and they still hadn't come back, Athukorala sought a court order for the girl's return.

"I didn't really know if I should file a legal case," Athukorala said. "I didn't want to ruin our relationship. It took a while to realize some games were being played and I was being manipulated emotionally."

Athukorala said so far he's spent more than $100,000 trying to get Kali back. Similar cases to his have run up bills as high as $350,000, he said.

Zemialkowski made a number of trips back to the U.S. for Family Court hearings before Grullon advised her to stop.

Perlman at one point ordered Zemialkowski to post a $25,000 bond to ensure her continued involvement in the proceedings.

The Dominican government took the position that this requirement also violated the international abduction treaty.

Zemialkowski said she was stuck in the U.S. for months while her parents scraped together the money, taking out a second mortgage on their home.

Now, since she never went back to Family Court, they're out the money.

Zemialkowski said she is suspicious of Athukorala's motives about seeking the return of Kali. "I think it's out of spite. I don't believe it has anything to do with the best interests of the child," she said.

Athukorala has made a few visits to his daughter the Dominican Republic. One trip coincided with Kali's birthday, he said, and so he threw her a party in his hotel room.

Zemialkowski claims Athukorala shoved her during his last visit in December 2008 - an allegation Athukorala denies, saying Zemialkowski concocted the story to block him from visiting Kali.

The incident led to a restraining order and criminal charges against Athukorala, Grullon said, but he left the country before the matter was ever taken up in court.

Meanwhile, according to Grullon, a Dominican court has ordered Athukorala to pay child support, but he has ignored the order.

Zemialkowski says Kali is oblivious to her parents' dispute.

"She's very bubbly, very happy," Zemialkowski said when asked to describe her daughter. "She's quite a joker. She's talking like a little parrot."

Athukorala said the last time Kali visited him in Belchertown, in February 2009, she scribbled on the carpet with a magic marker and left handprint on his television screen. Both marks are a reminder of his daughter, Athukorala said, and so he hasn't cleaned them up.

Even if he does win Kali back, Athukorala said he and his daughter will still have a hard road ahead of them.

"If we are reunited again, it's going to take a long time going through counseling to re-establish a bond," Athukorala said.

James F. Lowe can be reached at

Daily Hampshire Gazette 2008 All rights reserved


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[1] (
[2] (

Title: Re: News Articles
Post by: M.Capestro on March 08, 2010, 08:04:40 AM
Treaty confusing for nations, as well as parents in custody disputes
By jlowe
Created 03/06/2010

NORTHAMPTON - At the heart of the custody dispute over 2-year-old Kali Soleil Athukorala is an international treaty her parents - and the two countries they live in - interpret in completely opposite ways.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction lays down the ground rules for any case where one parent takes a child across a country's borders without the other parent's consent. The treaty is signed by 81 countries, including the United States and the Dominican Republic, where Kali now lives with her mother.

Primarily the convention is used to determine where custody proceedings should take place, based on the "habitual residence" of the child in question. It is also used to enforce parents' visitation rights.

Habitual residence is essentially "where the center of a child's life is," the place they're used to going to school, having friends, seeing a pediatrician and so on, said Regina Hurley, a Boston attorney who represents Kali's father, Dhanika Athukorala. Hurley said she's handled about eight international abduction cases, and leads seminars for other lawyers about the Hague convention. A child's habitual residence can change overnight if both his parents agree to move, Hurley said. But it may not if one parent opposes the child being taken away.

The distinction is moot if a child is abducted to a country that hasn't signed onto the Hague convention, Hurley said, and the left-behind parent is essentially at the mercy of the other country's legal system.

In his efforts to bring Kali back, Athukorala argues that the U.S. is her habitual residence, and the Hampshire Probate and Family Court agrees. Kali was born and lived the first four months of her life here.

But although the Dominican Republic signed onto the convention in 2007, authorities there do not agree the U.S. is Kali's habitual residence. The National Council for Childhood and Adolescence (known as the CONANI), argues Kali's habitual residence is Santo Domingo because her mother, Sandra Zemialkowski, "assumed responsibility for the care and custody" of Kali immediately upon taking her overseas.

The CONANI and Zemialkowski's attorney, Jose Grullon, argue Family Court Judge Gail Perlman violated two articles of the Hague convention by giving Athukorala sole legal custody of the girl.

"International law cannot be overlooked, and that is exactly what the Probate and Family Court did," Grullon said. "They invoke the Hague convention and then they violate it."

Jessica Berrien, a Northampton family law attorney who represents Athukorala sees it differently. She called Perlman very careful and thorough in her approach to the treaty. "They've completely misinterpreted it," Berrien said of the CONANI. Berrien said this is the first international custody case she's handled.

The State Department has reviewed the CONANI's decision and is appealing it, Athukorala said.

When a parent files a valid petition through the Hague convention, his or her child is supposed to be returned within six weeks, but in practice, it always takes longer, Hurley said. In her experience, Zimbabwe has had the fastest turnaround time - two months.

Delays, she said, can be the result of unfamiliarity with the treaty, especially in countries like the Dominican Republic that have signed on only recently.

"I wonder sometimes if what's going on is it's new, and the legal systems aren't used to dealing with it," Hurley said.

In December Athukorala traveled to Washington to attend a congressional hearing on two pieces of federal legislation aimed at preventing and resolving international abductions. He wore a T-shirt with his daughter's picture on it. House Resolutions 2702 and 3240, both sponsored by New Jersey Rep. Christopher Smith, aim to create penalties for convention signatories that do not comply with the treaty, Brazil in particular.

James F. Lowe can be reached at [1].

Daily Hampshire Gazette 2008 All rights reserved


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Title: Re: News Articles
Post by: M.Capestro on March 08, 2010, 08:09:05 AM
Custody battles hurt children, experts say
By jlowe
Created 03/06/2010

NORTHAMPTON - Caught up in their own conflict, separated parents don't always realize what toll the disagreement takes on their children, experts say.

The U.S. government takes the position that the toll can be even greater when a child is separated from one parent by national borders.

Only time will tell how 2-year-old Kali Soleil Athukorala Zemialkowski will be affected by the custody battle raging for most of her life between her parents, and the two different counties they live in.

"One of the mistakes parents make is not being able to think about their kids separate from the challenging feelings they have about the other parent," said Elizabeth Brenner, a Boston-area therapist who works with children and families, speaking in general terms about custody disputes.

Sometimes one parent will try to keep his or her children away from the other parent thinking it's in the children's best interest, Brenner said. But unless the other parent is abusive, she believes it is not.

According to U.S. State Department report, children abducted by their parents "often experience a range of problems including anxiety, eating problems, nightmares, mood swings, sleep disturbances, aggressive behavior, resentment, guilt and fearfulness." A child abducted by one parent at a very young age may not even remember the other parent, the report states.

Later in life, children may experience resentment toward the parent who kept them away from the other parent, Brenner said.

The parents left behind also suffer, according to the State Department report. They can experience depression and feelings of betrayal, financial strain from fighting to regain custody and difficulty re-establishing a connection with their children once they are returned.

In Kali's case, the girl has been living in the Dominican Republic with her mother, Sandra Zemialkowski, since late 2007. She hasn't had any contact with her father, Dhanika Athukorala of Belchertown, in almost a year.

Zemialkowski said in an interview she never tried to break off contact between Kali and her father. But Athukorala claims Zemialkowski has prevented him from seeing Kali in person or even via Web cam in over a year.

"I'm really hoping that this will not leave a scar in her person, and that she'll be able to recognize her father as her father," said Athukorala's mother, Kanthie Athukorala, in an interview.

Family courts in Massachusetts operate on the idea that it's to every child's benefit to have both parents involved in his or her upbringing, even if the parents don't live together.

The Hampshire Probate and Family Court in 2006 launched a program that encourages unmarried parents who have separated to work out their differences for the sake of their kids. For the Children is now a required course for unmarried individuals involved in custody proceedings around the state.

The program played a small part in Kali's case. Court records indicate Athukorala completed the three-hour course while Zemialkowski, who returned to the U.S. a number of times in 2007 and 2008 for custody hearings, did not.

James F. Lowe can be reached at [1].

Daily Hampshire Gazette 2008 All rights reserved


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