American man fights for custody of daughter after Taiwanese wife 'abducts' her for 17 months

Man leaves his life behind in US to fight for custodial rights to daughter in Taiwan

Azoulay with his daughter. (Ariel Azoulay photo)

Azoulay with his daughter. (Ariel Azoulay photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A U.S. citizen has left his job and flown to Taiwan to try and gain custody of his daughter after his Taiwanese wife allegedly abducted her twice and has refused to allow him to see the child in over a year and a half.

Ariel Azoulay, 38, was born in Ashkelon, Israel, but his family moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, when he was 18 months old. At the age of 16, his family immigrated to the U.S., where he has lived ever since, becoming a naturalized citizen in 2010.

Cross-cultural couple

Having recently moved to the San Francisco Bay Area for work as a software engineer. While there, Azoulay met his future spouse, surnamed Hsu, on a dating app. Hsu, now 32, had been living in the U.S. for over five years prior to meeting him.

Their relationship developed rather quickly, and in October 2014, the couple began living together in the city of San Mateo, California. Azoulay proposed to Hsu in September the following year.

American man fights for custody of daughter after Taiwanese wife 'abducts' her for 17 months
Hsu (left), Azoulay. (Ariel Azoulay photo)

The couple had a civil ceremony in February 2016 and a formal wedding in July in Napa Valley. Their daughter was born a little over two years later and is now two and a half years old.

Hsu told Azoulay that their daughter would not be able to receive Taiwanese citizenship if she was not born in that country, and he acquiesced to having her delivered in Taiwan. In exchange, Hsu agreed that three months after delivery, she and their child would fly to Florida, where Azoulay already had job prospects lined up.

The couple traveled to Taiwan in February 2018, three months prior to the delivery date. During their stay in Taiwan, Hsu told Azoulay that her father was "in the worst financial crisis of his life" and that he was in desperate need of cash immediately. Over the course of his six months in Taiwan, Azoulay lent Hsu's father over US$50,000, but he claims this loan was never repaid.

As part of his preparations to return to the U.S., Azoulay found a job in Florida as a consultant for ThoughtWorks, Inc, which assigned him to clients such as McKinsey & Co and Spotify. He says the couple also found a "beautiful home" in Boca Raton, Florida, and finally returned to the U.S. in October of 2018 after Hsu had recovered from childbirth and their daughter was of age to board a plane.

First alleged abduction

However, Azoulay alleges that only five days after Hsu had arrived at their new Florida home, on Nov. 5, 2018, she "abducted" their daughter and took her to Los Angeles. He said her explanation for suddenly leaving was that she "does not like Florida."

After weeks of unsuccessfully trying to convince Hsu to return, Azoulay was forced to take time off from his job and travel to Los Angeles to see his wife and daughter. However, Azoulay alleges that Hsu had already hatched a plot to have her father travel to the U.S. to pose as the father of the baby in order to "abduct" the child and take her to Taiwan.

American man fights for custody of daughter after Taiwanese wife 'abducts' her for 17 months
Azoulay holding his newborn daughter. (Ariel Azoulay photo)

As their daughter has both American and Taiwanese passports, Azoulay alleges that they used the Taiwanese passports to flee from the U.S. without him knowing.

Two months later, Hsu traveled by herself to the U.S., leaving the child with Hsu's parents in Taiwan. She then allegedly demanded that Azoulay send funds for her to live in an apartment on the waterfront in New York City or she would never let him see their daughter again.

Azoulay's first flight to Taiwan

Azoulay says that he refused to relent to the "absurd demand" and instead took emergency family leave from his job and flew to Taiwan to see his daughter. He was only able to take enough leave to stay in Taiwan for one week.

Throughout this time, Hsu assured him that she would return to the U.S., asked for his sponsorship of U.S. papers, and continued to demand that he provide her full financial support to live in New York. He claims that she completely ignored the fact that his new job was in Florida, that she had agreed to live there prior to delivering their daughter in Taiwan, and that the couple had a household in the peninsular state.

American man fights for custody of daughter after Taiwanese wife 'abducts' her for 17 months
(Ariel Azoulay photo)

In April of 2019, Hsu finally returned to the U.S. with their daughter but refused to come to Florida. She insisted on moving to New York City, and Azoulay alleges that she falsified paperwork to obtain a US$3,500-a-month apartment in the city.

Azoulay claimed that he was forced to support Hsu in New York, with monthly expenses surpassing US$8,000. Azoulay says he had no choice, as he feared that if he did not comply with her demands, she would abduct the child again.

American man fights for custody of daughter after Taiwanese wife 'abducts' her for 17 months
(Ariel Azoulay photo)

He agreed to support her fully but asked that Hsu return the child's passports to him, as he was concerned that she was unstable and might abduct the child again. However, she refused and became angry, accusing him of not trusting her.

Azoulay said he did not consider divorcing Hsu at this stage because she would not be able to stay in the U.S.

Second alleged abduction

In August of 2019, Hsu asked Azoulay to ship their car from Florida to New York. He believes she did this with the goal of selling the car for the cash.

When he refused to do so, he alleges that Hsu decided to "abduct" the child yet again. Azoulay said he was under the impression that Hsu was "just planning to sell the car and run away anyway."

In September of that year, Azoulay filed for divorce in Broward County, Florida. Hsu returned to the U.S. that same month, but this time she came again alone, leaving the child with her parents in Taiwan.

He claims Hsu lied about coming with the child. The New York City Sheriff's Office served her with divorce papers, and a judge's order issued stated she must return the child's passports, but the child was not with her. Hsu ignored the judge's order and fled to Taiwan.

Azoulay has not seen his daughter in person since August 2019. During this period, his lawyers strongly advised him not to travel to Taiwan.

In the time since he has last seen his daughter, Hsu has purportedly continued to ask for more and more money from Azoulay. However, he claims she has completely denied him any access to the child.

According to Azoulay, she has not even allowed him to see the child over video. She has allegedly rarely sent him pictures of her and continually pressured him to drop the divorce case in Florida.

He accuses Hsu of hurling "extreme brutal verbal abuse" on a daily basis while he begged her to return with their daughter and enable him to her. Azoulay says that Hsu is still demanding U.S. sponsorship papers, but she is fighting against the divorce case in the U.S. while filing for divorce and monetary compensation in Taiwan.

In January of this year, after the alleged verbal and psychological abuse and what he described as "extreme anguish" over not being able to see his daughter, he lost his position as a lead consultant at ThoughtWorks.

Azoulay's second flight to Taiwan

After obtaining help from the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the Israeli consulate, and the Taiwan representative office in Miami, Azoulay was able to obtain a special COVID-19 visa, and he traveled to Taiwan on Nov. 21 of this year. After spending over a month in Taiwan, including the 14-day quarantine, Azoulay has yet to be able to see his daughter face-to-face.

On Dec. 10, he attempted to visit her home with police and two lawyers. However, Hsu told the police that he comes from a country affected by the coronavirus and that for the safety of the child, she would not let him see her.

He then presented a document showing his completion of his 14-day quarantine to the police. When officers drove Azoulay to her house, she made the police wait outside until she reached her lawyer, who stated that the child was not home at that time (8:30 p.m.).

American man fights for custody of daughter after Taiwanese wife 'abducts' her for 17 months
Azoulay's lawyers (left), Hsu (far right). (Ariel Azoulay photo)

On Dec. 15, Azoulay filed criminal charges against the child's mother for child alienation and child abduction. Although there is a divorce case pending in Florida, Hsu has filed for divorce in Taiwan.

Azoulay's lawyers are seeking to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. Azoulay says he just wants his daughter back.

Hsu had initially agreed with his lawyers that she would bring their daughter to meet him at Taipei 101 on Dec. 13, but she backed out at the last minute. Finally, later that day, she allowed him to have a brief video call with her, one year and five months after he had last seen her.

She then allowed brief video chats on Dec. 16 and Dec. 18 and allegedly plans for more calls on Dec. 23 and Dec. 25. Azoulay contends that the problem with the video chats is that they take place late at night when the child is exhausted while the TV blares in the background and adults feed her and distract her with toys.

On Dec. 18, he heard from his lawyer that Hsu might be willing to let him see his daughter for one hour, but on the condition that it takes place at the Nangang Police Station. However, he told Taiwan News he did not think this was suitable for two reasons:

  1. It's not a good memory for the child to meet her father at a police station after one and a half years.
  2. He thinks it may be a trap, as he suspects her father may have connections with that precinct.

As of publication, Azoulay has yet to see his daughter in person. He says that the first hearing in the divorce proceedings will be held Dec. 23.

Taiwan News contacted Hsu and asked if she had any comments about the allegations Azoulay has put forward. She declined to directly respond to the accusations and simply confirmed that she has indeed filed for divorce in Taiwan and that the proceedings are underway.

Updated : 2021-01-21 20:50 GMT+08:00