I am rarely bothered by other people's custody battles, international or otherwise, and always use sufficient birth control to avoid having any of my own. Usually I just assume that the sprog has two loving (if not necessarily very sensible) parents in any case, and the court will sort out the rights of the adults somehow.
Lately there has been an exception to that:
Natalia Zarubina, a Russian woman, came to Portugal illegally in 2001 in order to work. There she met a Ukrainian man named Georgi Tsiklauri, started a relationship with him, and in April 2003 a little girl was born. They called her Alexandra.
Soon after Sandra's birth they broke up, and the child stayed with her mother, who, according to witnesses, did not take particularly good care of her. The father didn't either. Another Russian woman said that she knew a couple that would take care of the child, and so Natalia left Sandra to Florinda Vieira and João Pinheiro. She was 17 months old and weighed 5.7 kg. They took her in and raised her as their own child.
The father was told about the arrangement, and wanted nothing to do with the kid, financially or otherwise.
The mother visited the daughter sometimes, often drunk. The daughter did not speak any Russian.
Anyway, at some point the authorities noticed that Natalia was there illegally, and tried to kick her out. At that point she remembered that she had a daughter, demanded that the daughter be kicked out together with her, and Florinda and João tried to demand the kid for themselves. A custody battle ensued, along with a pause in deportation proceedings.
The first trial resulted in custody being given to Florinda and João. After that Natalia's mother wrote to Putin, and the Russian embassy interfered in the next trial. A Russian citizenship was arranged for Sandra, and the representatives from the embassy started pestering the judge, promising that in Russia Sandra will have the same living conditions as in Portugal.
What the fuck was the judge thinking? (This is pretty much what the judge himself is saying now.) Even apart from the fact that Russian diplomats are not the kind of people that you would want to buy a used car from, or give a used child to, for this girl you can't arrange the same living conditions in Russia (or the US, Finland or Spain, for that matter), as in Portugal. The reason being, there are only two people in the world whom she calls "mom" and "dad", and they happen to live in Portugal.
During the custody battle Florinda and João claimed that Natalia was a prostitute, alcoholic, and drug user, and that she was gonna take Sandra to a place where there is no toilet, and everyone drinks vodka and eats spam (not the email kind).
The claim about prostitution and drugs could well have been just a baseless custody war weapon, especially since I find it very difficult to imagine that some human being would pay real money for Ms. Zarubina's company. The stereotype of Russians living without toilets and drinking vodka all the time pissed off quite a lot of Russians, since most of them don't really live like that.
What is, however, a matter of public record, was that Natalia had to be removed from the roof of a bus by police and firefighters while being drunk and aggressive, and had to be taken to a psychiatric facility. Also, that the psychologist who used to supervise Natalia's visits said that ever since the visits became supervised the child is not afraid of the mother's verbal and physical aggression anymore.
The was also a demonstration of the members of the local Russian community in Braga, the city where Natalia lived. The basic point: "we know that bitch, please don't give her the poor child".
Anyway, the judge, whatever the fuck he happened to be thinking, gave the child to the, uhm, mother, and she took little Sandra and her dog to Russia.
Now the Russian TV made a report on her. Several, actually, this is just one. Holy shit! They really don't have a toilet, or indeed a real bed for her. They really are all drunk, except possibly the grandmother. There really is spam on the table. And most importantly, the mother is obviously neither decent enough not bright enough to abstain from hitting the child on national TV.
They live with Natalia's parents, brother and other daughter. This other daughter was never supported by her mother financially, and and hadn't seen her since 2001. She is 14, and already pronouncing death threats on national TV.
Florinda and João were invited by a Russian TV program in the end of May and tried to come to Russia, but for some reason were refused a visa.
The Portuguese are negotiating for Natalia and Sandra to come back, and Natalia is trying to get some money out of them. We'll see how that develops, but so far looks bad.