Fighting for Liam: Michael McCarty's Crusade to Bring Son Home

Amidst custody dispute, Michael McCarty's son Liam is in an Italian orphanage.

ByABC News via logo
August 12, 2009, 12:04 AM

Aug. 12, 2009— -- Home videos show 5-year-old Liam McCarty horsing around with his father, his blond curls bouncing around a cherubic face.

It's a face his father, Michael McCarty, hasn't seen in months.

Liam, an American citizen, was placed into the custody of an Italian orphanage this spring after his mother, Manuela McCarty, fled to her native Italy with the child in the middle of a custody dispute with Michael McCarty.

Yet shortly after arriving, a court reportedly ruled that she was an unfit parent and Liam was put into an orphanage instead of being returned to his father. Now father and son are stuck in a tangled legal battle that involves several courts in what Michael McCarty said is an "archaeic" system.

"The last time I saw him was a few months ago and he's not doing very well," McCarty told "Good Morning America's" Chris Cuomo today. "He has deteroiated."

McCarty said he's concerned not only with getting his son back on American soil, but about his mental condition and the stress of not knowing anyone he can trust.

"That happy little boy that you saw … has changed," he said. "He has been traumatized by this experience. You can only imagine what it might be like for a 5-year-old child to be torn away from everything he knows."

It was on March 5, 2007, that McCarty's life was changed forever. He received a phone call that every parent dreads -- Liam was no longer at school in New York City.

McCarty later learned his son was halfway around the world. The ensuing legal battle has been characterized by postponements and non-resolution in Italy's court system.

There are three cases pending related to Liam, dealing with both custody and custodial rights: one in Rome's juvenile court, one in the appellate court and one in the Supreme Court. Currently they are all in adjournment with no dates set for the next hearing.

The case is complicated by the fact that Liam was born in Italy and has dual citizenship there and in the U.S., and McCarty did not have formal final custody of Liam until after Manuela fled to Italy with him.