Mark Andrew Larson now has custody of his 5 1/2-year-old daughter - on paper.
Fourth District Judge Anthony W. Schofield awarded the Orem man temporary custody of Julia this month after the latest hearing in an ongoing international parental dispute.But whether father and daughter will be reunited remains to be seen. The girl is in Sweden with her mother, Karin Sofia Ohlander, Larson's ex-wife. Ohlander refuses to leave her native country.
"This is a troublesome case," Schofield wrote in his ruling.
Larson, who has since remarried and has an infant daughter, has not seen or talked to Julia in two years.
Schofield said Ohlander's failure to allow even telephone visitation shows disregard for Julia's best interest.
"Sofia's continued persistence in denying any contact between Julia and her father inevitably must leave some seeds of doubt in Julia's mind as to the competence, trustworthiness and integrity of the father," he wrote.
"And frequently those sorts of seeds seem to sprout and blossom without much added nourishment, all to the detriment of the child."
Ohlander's attorney, Billie C. Nielsen, told the judge last month that her client fears Larson will abduct the child if she returns to Utah.
Schofield discounted that fear, saying he would issue orders to protect Julia and arrange visitation that would be in the girl's best interest. Julia would be "well-served by having a meaningful, ongoing relationship with both of her natural parents," he wrote.
The tug-of-war for Julia began in 1990 when her parents spent Christmas visiting her mother's family in Sandviken, a city north of Stockholm. Ohlander didn't want to go back to Utah after the holidays, and Larson returned alone. A few months later, they decided to reconcile in Utah. When things didn't work out, Ohlander took her daughter back to Sweden. The couple divorced in 1993.
Larson sneaked the girl out of Sweden during a custodial visit in November 1993. The story made headlines in Utah when Ohlander arrived from Sweden looking for her daughter in January 1994.
A U.S. District judge ordered Larson to turn Julia over to her mother pending a hearing under rules of the Hague Convention, an international agreement outlining how jurisdiction should be decided in such disputes. But Ohlander whisked the child to Sweden.
Both parents have sought custody orders in Utah and Sweden. The Swedish courts have generally ruled in Ohlander's favor. She refuses to acknowledge U.S. court orders.