AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France – A French appeals court ruled Friday that a 4-year-old girl at the center of a trans-Atlantic custody battle should be sent home with her American father.
The child, Charlotte Washington (search), came into national focus this fall when police barged into her nursery school in southern France in a bid to return her to her father.
Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin (search) expressed shock at what he called "unacceptable" behavior by police, who had scaled the walls of Charlotte's school in the village of Adrets-de-l'Esterel and entered her classroom.
Teachers hid the child and the police left empty-handed.
David Washington (search), of New York state, was initially granted custody of the child in 2003 by an American court, a decision confirmed May 13 by an appeals court of Aix-en-Provence.
Charlotte's French mother, Sophie Maumousseau (search), subsequently traveled to the United States, returning to France with the child and refusing to give her back to her father.
A separate legal battle ensued and the child was placed under foster care by a court in nearby Draguignan (search).
Friday's appeals court decision returned to the May 13 ruling, saying there "was no danger" found in giving the father custody and he could remove his daughter from foster care, said the girl's court-appointed lawyer, Joelle Tosca-Zonino.