Children back in Snowmass but parents’ fight not over

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times
Ana Alianelli talks with a television reporter in April after an appearance at the Garfield County Courthouse.
Staff Photo |

Two children at the focus of an international custody dispute are back living in their father’s home in Snowmass Village, but the fight isn’t over yet.

Victoria and Sophia Burns have been living with their father, Dennis Burns, for the past month since leaving their mother’s home country of Argentina, where she took them five years ago and has been raising them despite a 2010 court order naming Burns the girls’ primary residential parent.

Burns has fought to bring the girls home ever since, and an Argentine judge recently ordered the girls’ return to Colorado. But their mother contends that when that happened, she and Burns signed an agreement that their daughters would live with her upon their return to Colorado in housing he would provide.

“I want to actually follow the agreement,” said Ana Alianelli, who is only allowed to visit her daughters with a supervisor, whom she has to pay.

Burns declined to comment “on what happened in Argentina,” citing the sensitivity of the legal proceedings. He said his daughters are doing as well as possible. They recently returned from a trip with him to visit his parents and other family members in New Jersey, which the court ordered be shorter than he had hoped.

“We’re trying to give them an identity of who they are now,” Burns said. “Both sides of the picture of what makes them up: mom’s side of the family and dad’s side of the family, and who they are in that capacity.”

Both Burns and Alianelli have had psychologists evaluate their daughters. Specialists met Burns at the airport in Houston upon their arrival last month, and he said they told him that Victoria and Sophia should spend a significant amount of time with their grandparents to “start the reunification process” and spend some time apart from their mother to get to know their father better.

“They’re doing great,” Burns said. “They’re having a lot of fun. They’re not sad; they’re not crying about anything. … I’m keeping them healthy and keeping them happy.”

But Alianelli sought a second opinion on the girls’ mental health, and last week her attorneys filed a report of that psychological evaluation. That document will likely not be made public, but Alianelli says it paints a very different picture.

“The girls are not eating well, they’re not dressing well, they’re not having a routine,” said their mother, who added that a similar evaluation done five months ago in Argentina produced starkly different results. Her daughters had a nice life in Argentina, she says, living in a gated community, attending a top private school and playing tennis after school.

Alianelli wants the agreement she says Burns signed in Argentina to be honored. As for Burns, he’s not sure yet what kind of shared custody situation he’s willing to foster with the girls’ mother.

Burns and Alianelli are due for another hearing in Garfield County District Court in Glenwood Springs in June.

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