Vietnamese mother wins daughter back from French ex

By Hai Duyen   January 31, 2019 | 12:41 am PT
A Vietnamese mother has been reunited with her daughter after winning a four-year custody fight against the girl's father.

Judicial officials in Ho Chi Minh City supervised Tuesday as French man Azais, 44, handed over 4-year-old Sara Thien Kim to her mother Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen, 34, at his house in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City.

After more than four years of back and forth travel between Vietnam and France to file lawsuits against Azais, Huyen has officially got custody of her child.

Ngo Thanh Hung, one of the officials, said the exchange went well.

"The baby ran to her mother and hugged her in front of everyone's eyes. Everyone was touched. The blood line was magical because the girl was only three months old when they were parted," he said.

The mother and daughter reunited after years of separation. Photo courtesy of Thanh Huyen.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen and her daughter reunite after years of separation. Photo by Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen

Azais used to live with Huyen in HCMC, but they broke up when she was six months pregnant. She gave birth to Sarah in August 2014.

Azais went to the French consulate to obtain a birth certificate and French passport for Sarah, and took her to France, prompting Huyen to start a legal battle for the child’s custody there.

Huyen said she lived in misery and isolation when she went to France to fight for Sarah’s custody. While waiting for the summons, she met Azais twice in a café and at the airport.

In June 2016 a court in Albi in southern France ruled in favor of Huyen and ordered Azais to return Sarah to her mother. Following the ruling, Azais returned to HCMC with the child, but refused to hand her over to Huyen.

Huyen attempted to see her daughter many times, but Azais did not allow it. Huyen then appealed to the HCMC People's Court of Family and Minors to execute the French court's ruling. In May 2017, the court ruled in Huyen's favor. Azais appealed the decision.

In August 2018, the HCMC People's Family Court dismissed Azais's appeal, recognizing and enforcing the French court's decision. He was ordered to hand over the daughter and her passport immediately to Huyen. The court ruled that he can visit his daughter every Saturday between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at his residence in Vietnam, and once a year in France.

One of the rare occasions Huyen got to see her daughter when she was following law suits in France. Photo courtesy of Thanh Huyen.

One of the rare occasions Huyen got to see her daughter when she was filing lawsuits in France. Photo by Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen

Because Azaiz repeatedly refused to cooperate, it took the judgment enforcement agency several months to approach him and resolve the conflict.

Vietnamese authorities had to pressurize him into cooperation.

"Enforcement is difficult because of human rights, especially when it involves a child. If done drastically, it will negatively affect the baby's psychology. The object of judgment is a foreign citizen, so we strictly followed the law," Hung said.

At the Tuesday’s meeting, Azais neither signed the minutes nor handed over his daughter's passport. "This will be resolved after Tet," the executor said, referring to Vietnamese New Year break next week.

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