After serving almost three years in jail for failing to comply with a Family Judge’s Court Order, a Bergen County, New Jersey jury found Maria Jose Carrascosa guilty of eight counts of interference with custody and one count of contempt of Court. The guilty verdict could result in another ten years of jail time for Carrascosa.
In early 1999, Carrascosa married Peter Inness in her native country of Spain. Carrascosa had resided and worked in the United States since 1992. Inness was an American citizen. After their marriage, they returned to the United States and resided in North Jersey. On April 17, 2000, the parties’ daughter, Victoria, was born.
By early 2004, the parties had separated and shortly thereafter, Carrascosa filed for a religious annulment with the Ecclesiastic Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Valencia Spain.
In October 2004, the parties entered into a written agreement, through counsel, indicating that Inness would have parenting time with Victoria and prohibiting Victoria’s removal from the country.
In December 2004, Inness filed a divorce complaint in the State of New Jersey seeking among other things, custody of Victoria. The Complaint was served upon Carrascosa in early January 2005 and within seven days of being served, Carrascosa left for Spain with Victoria snowballing into two years of litigation in the New Jersey Family Court, New Jersey Appellate Division, Spain and the Appeals Courts of Spain.
In the New Jersey Family Court proceedings, Carrascosa was ordered on a number of occasions to return Victoria to New Jersey and at no point did she comply. Carrascosa argued that New Jersey did not have jurisdiction to handle the matter and that pursuant to an Order of the Court in Spain, Victoria was prohibited from leaving Spain until her eighteenth birthday. However, the New Jersey Court and the New Jersey Appellate Division rejected Carrascosa’s arguments. After a trial, the New Jersey Court entered one last Order requiring return of Victoria to New Jersey and granted Inness sole and residential custody of Victoria. Carrascosa appealed the Order but the Appellate Division affirmed the rulings of the Trial Court. The Order further directed that should Carrascosa fail to comply with the Order, she would be incarcerated until such time as compliance was met. Victoria was not returned to New Jersey and Carrascosa was arrested on November 13, 2006 pursuant to the Family Court Order.
Additionally, Carrascosa was charged criminally with interference of custody and indicted. As a result of her continuing refusal to return Victoria to New Jersey, Carrascosa remained in jail until commencement of the criminal trial in Bergen County on November 5, 2009. After only two hours of deliberation, the jury returned guilty verdicts on November 12, 2009 on eight counts of interference with custody and one count of contempt of Court. Carrascosa may be subject to ten years of incarceration.
Sadly, throughout this entire ordeal, Victoria has been with neither parent. Since her mother took her to Spain in January 2005 through the present time, she is being cared for by her maternal grandparents. Even more sad is that there is still no indication as to whether or when Victoria will ever be returned to her father. The motivation for Carrascosa to continue to block Victoria’s access to her father is unclear since she never testified in the Family Court custody case having plead the Fifth Amendment. Carrascosa did complete a phone interview from jail last year with a reporter from The Record. Carrascosa told the reporter that “If God chooses me to die in jail to protect my child, then I will have to do that”
What is clear from this case is that New Jersey courts do not take lightly continued defiance of Family Court Custody Orders and will prosecute statutory criminal offenses of interference of custody when warranted. What is also clear from this case is that no one ever "wins" in these types of cases – – Carrascosa will be sitting in jail, Inness is still awaiting the return of his daughter and Victoria will be with neither parent.