VANCOUVER - A London-based celebrity chef has won an international custody battle in British Columbia after a judge used child abduction laws to order the man's toddler returned to the U.K.
The case involves Omar Allibhoy, 30, a Spanish-born chef who opened the acclaimed Tapas Revolution restaurants in London and published a book by the same name. He is a frequent guest chef on British TV programs.
Allibhoy lives in London, while his ex-wife, Marsha Tabalujan, who has Canadian and Indonesian citizenship, currently lives with her parents in Coquitlam, B.C., located east of Vancouver.
The couple married in London in September 2009.
When Tabalujan became pregnant, she moved to the Vancouver area to give birth and allow her parents to help with her newborn son, the court heard.
Tabalujan and Noah then spent the next year splitting their time between the family's home in London, Tabalujan's parents' home in B.C., and Allibhoy's parents' home in Spain.
In the spring of last year, Tabalujan suggested Noah live temporarily with her parents in B.C. to ease her transition back to work after maternity leave, the court heard. Allibhoy agreed, with the expectation Noah would be back in London by September.
Tabalujan flew with Noah to B.C. in June and returned by herself in mid-July. Allibhoy broke off their relationship a week later and then told Tabalujan's parents that he wanted Noah to return to London immediately.
"On Aug. 7, 2014, Mr. Allibhoy returned from a trip and found a note from the respondent indicating that she had left for Canada," says a B.C. Supreme Court decision, issued Tuesday.
"Shortly thereafter, the petitioner learned that Noah's return ticket to London had been cancelled."
Later that month, Allibhoy received a letter from Tabalujan's lawyer indicating Tabalujan had decided to stay in Canada with Noah.
Allibhoy claimed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction required Noah to be returned to London because that is where the child's "habitual residence" is located.
B.C. Supreme Court Judge Peter Voith agreed and ordered Tabalujan to arrange Noah's return to London at her expense.
Voith pointed out that before their separation, Allibhoy and Tabalujan both planned to settle in London with Noah. If Noah had still been in London at the time of the separation, Voith said it would have been illegal for Tabalujan to unilaterally move him to Canada.
"The fact that Noah happened to be in Canada (when Allibhoy announced his intentions to separate) on July 22, 2014, was a matter of happenstance," the judge wrote.
"The petitioner had made clear, and both parties understood, that Noah was only intended to be in Canada with his maternal grandparents for a limited period of time and that he was to be returned to England when the petitioner requested."
Tabalujan also argued that Allibhoy posed a risk to the child because he had a history of recreational cocaine use.
Allibhoy responded by claiming his ex-wife had also used cocaine, which she did not deny.
The judge noted Allibhoy has never been in trouble with the law and he tested negative for cocaine last November. This week's court ruling orders him to be tested regularly for six months.
Voith's ruling leaves any issues related to custody, access and support to the courts in England.
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