The Investigators: Mississippi man involved in custody battle - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: Mississippi man involved in international custody battle

John Hersey, fighting to get custody of his daughters after their mother took them to Canada. John Hersey, fighting to get custody of his daughters after their mother took them to Canada.
Hersey with his children. Hersey with his children.
Hersey's daughters, Emma, 3, and Olivia, 1-and-a-half. Hersey's daughters, Emma, 3, and Olivia, 1-and-a-half.
Cindy Gratton, mother of the children, has a contempt of court charge against her in Alcorn County for not appearing at custody hearings. Cindy Gratton, mother of the children, has a contempt of court charge against her in Alcorn County for not appearing at custody hearings.

(WMC-TV) - A Mid-South father is fighting to get his children back after the kids' mother took them to another country.

Now, the former couple is embroiled in an international custody battle.

"I can't describe," said father John Hersey. "You go home at night and you wonder...where are your children at...what are they doing...who are they with?"

Hersey knows where his two young daughters Emma, age 3, and Olivia, age 1, are.

They are in Canada with his ex-wife Cindy Gratton.  She's a Canadian Citizen.  Hersey met and married Gratton in Alcorn County, Mississippi, where he lives.

"We got a divorce and her visa was out," Hersey explained.  "Her passport was going out. She needed to go back to Canada to straighten this paper work out."

Hersey agreed to let his ex-wife take the couple's two daughters just for a short period.  He expected his daughters back home in March of last year.

"She just didn't come back.  She filed paperwork in the courts in Canada.  She was telling me you are not going to see your children for 7 years because they are just too young to be away from their mom for any amount of time, for a day even," Hersey stated.

Hersey says he didn't see his girls for six months, so he went to Canada.

"I can't describe what it's like to see the children for the first time in 6 months…you know," said Hersey, "But I did. I got to see them."

He's been to Canada several times since, to see his daughters, and to appear in court.

A judge in Alcorn County granted Hersey temporary custody of the girls, who are American citizens.  But Gratton hired an attorney, available free to Canadian citizens, to fight to keep the girls with her.

"This woman has never had any intention of bringing those children back.," says Hersey's attorney Amery Moore.

Moore, a Mississippi attorney, has taken Hersey's case pro bono.  She says Gratton refused to show up to any of the Alcorn County hearings.

"She has been found in contempt of the American court multiple times," explained Moore.  Moore is now working with the Canadian justice system to try to get the girls back to Mississippi.

"I want the girls to come back to their home," said Hersey, "and I'll do whatever I can to make sure their mother is in their lives. I want to be a father."

 An international law known as the Hague Convention is at play in this case.  It is an agreement between member countries, of which the US are Canada are a part, to work out child abduction cases in the best interests of the child.

I was not able to make contact with Cindy Gratton for her side of this story, but she does have a contempt of court charge against her in Alcorn County for not appearing at custody hearings.

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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