Swedish father, American mother battle over daughter, 5

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 21, 2013 - 7:11 AM

A judge has ruled that a Minnesota woman abducted her daughter from Sweden and has ordered that the girl be returned to her father.

Decked out in a new pink dress from Toys ‘R’ Us, Olivia MacInnes dug her spoon into a bowl of vanilla ice cream with strawberry sauce while her mother held her closely on her lap.

Olivia, who turned 5 on Saturday, is at the center of a bitter international legal dispute between her two divorced parents.

Swedish courts have ruled that her mother, Mariah Talbot, abducted Olivia, taking her from Sweden to the United States without her father’s permission. On April 9, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank ordered Olivia promptly returned. Olivia’s Swedish grandmother is expected to arrive in the Twin Cities this week and take the girl back to Sweden, where she was born and raised.

“I don’t know if I will ever see her again,” said her mother, tears in her eyes.

Olivia’s father, who took his daughter to the Mall of America during a three-day visit to Minnesota this month, said in an e-mail to the Star Tribune that Olivia’s family and friends are looking forward to her return.

“I am so thankful for all people involved in helping us get Olivia home,” wrote Mikael Lejon, who has joint custody of his daughter.

Olivia’s case illustrates what often happens in international custody fights, which have become increasingly common. In 2012, the State Department said it opened up 344 cases involving 477 children who were abducted from other countries and brought to the United States or were visiting here and not returned to their home countries.

Many of the cases are covered by the Hague Convention, a treaty in which 89 signatory countries, including the United States and Sweden, agree to return children to their home country so that custody can be determined there.

‘America will take care of us’

Mariah Talbot said she didn’t know that when she brought Olivia to live in Big Lake, Minn.

In an interview at a Perkins restaurant in Monticello, Talbot said she is the daughter of a missionary who lived in Sweden for eight years. She had two children from a previous marriage to a Swedish pilot. She met and married her second husband, Lejon, in Sweden and Olivia was born.

The marriage went sour within a year, Talbot said, and Olivia mostly lived with her, spending a few days a month with Lejon.

Talbot said she met Chad Talbot, a Minnesotan, through a Christian online dating site and the two hit it off. She was about to lose her sublet apartment in Gothenburg, Sweden, and she was finding it hard to get work as a wedding photographer because it was wintertime and most marriages are in the summer. She decided to come to Minnesota where some of her relatives live, and brought Olivia with her in late January. She and Chad married in Minnesota.

“When I came here, I did not know I was doing something wrong,” she said. “I figured America will take care of us. We’ll take it up in an American court.”

She said she and her new husband, an accountant for a temporary staffing agency in Minneapolis, are expecting a child and plan to live in Minnesota.

She said that she and Chad have explained to Olivia she’ll be going back to Sweden.

“I don’t want my other father to take me,” said Olivia. “I want to be with my mommy.”

Swedish court orders arrest

  • related content

  • Mariah Talbot is married to Chad Talbot and living with daughter Olivia MacInnes in Big Lake, Minn. Mariah divorced Olivia’s father, Mikael Lejon, in Sweden, then brought Olivia to the United States.

  • The Swedish government has requested the return of Olivia to Sweden and her father, but mother Mariah Talbot, of Big Lake, Minn., does not want to comply.

  • To see a video of 5-year-old Olivia MacInnes, go to www.startribune.com/video.

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