A former Orem woman who "brazenly thumbed her nose" at U.S. courts and fled to Sweden with her daughter has shaken free of the American legal system.
Complying with an order from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. District Senior Judge Bruce S. Jenkins Wednesday dismissed Karin Sofia Ohlander's 1994 petition for the return of her daughter, Julia.When she filed the petition, Ohlander and her husband, Mark Andrew Larson, were engaged in a "grab and run" custody battle that took Julia from Orem to Sandviken, Sweden, back to Orem, and back again to Sandviken.
But after retrieving Julia herself, Ohlander asked that the U.S. legal proceedings be dismissed to clear the way for Swedish courts to settle the custody question. That motion provoked another round of court contests that ended at Wednesday's hearing.
The Ohlander-Larson fight over their daughter began shortly after Julia's birth in 1990. During Christmas of that year, the family traveled to Sweden to visit Ohlander's family. Ohlander decided to stay there with Julia, and Larson returned to Orem alone.
In June 1991, Ohlander and Julia returned to Utah, but then flew back to Sweden the following year without Larson's consent. Larson visited them in 1993, "grabbed" Julia and brought her to Utah without his wife's consent. It was then that Ohlander filed the petition seeking her daughter's return under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Jenkins released Julia to her mother pending resolution of the custody fight but ordered Ohlander to remain in the United States. Ohlander disobeyed the order and fled with her daughter to Sweden, where they have been ever since.
Jenkins held her in contempt and ordered her to return, which she also ignored. Meanwhile, Swedish courts held that Julia's residency had changed to Sweden, and Ohlander then asked for the dismissal of the U.S. legal action. When Jenkins refused, Ohlander appealed to the 10th Circuit Court in Denver.
In a 2-1 decision last year, the appeals said Ohlander had "brazenly thumbed her nose at the United States District Court's order," but agreed the custody question should be settled in Sweden.
Though he didn't contest the motion to dismiss the petition at Wednesday's hearing, Larson asked Jenkins to hold his ex-wife in contempt of court and order her to pay his attorney fees and legal expenses.
Larson represented himself at the hearing, saying that after six years of international legal wrangling, "I can no longer afford attorney fees."
He argued that his ex-wife hadn't appealed the earlier contempt order and that the 10th Circuit ruling was silent on that issue. Also, since Ohlander was dropping the petition, Larson contented that he, as the prevailing party, is entitled to legal fees.
And once the petition is dismissed, he continued, Julia's legal status in the United States technically reverts to where it was before the petition was filed. In other words, to a time when the child was in Larson's physical but not legal custody.
Otherwise, he continued, a temporary custody decision becomes permanent.
"What if this court had placed Julia in the temporary custody of a third party instead of (Ohlander)?" Larson asked. "Would the dismissal of the petition have left Julia with the third party permanently?"
Where is Julia now? Larson asked. "Legally, conceptually, she is in the care and control of this court."
Jenkins called Larson's arguments "intriguing" but said the only motion before him was the one to dismiss the petition and declined to address any other issues.
After the hearing, Larson said he plans to return to court with motions on those and other issues. He said he has little confidence in the Swedish courts or the Hague Convention.