John Hopkins, a 40-year-old father, has not seen his son in three years.
The Tennessean reports that after marrying his wife Jackie in Las Vegas in 2002, the couple gave birth to Cody in Wisconsin, where the family was living until John’s mother became ill in 2006 and the family moved to Northern Ireland.
In 2013 Jackie began feeling homesick and flew to the U.S. with Cody and never returned. “My wife couldn’t make friends [in Ireland] and couldn’t get a job,” John said. “I knew she was struggling, but it was a complete shock when she just didn’t come back.”
Jackie has been on the run ever since and even changed her name.
“Cody is my only son and for the last three years I’ve been contacting someone nearly every day to try and get information,” John told the Irish Central.
In April, John finally found out that his son had been found and that his family had moved back to Wisconsin.
“I have been suffering with severe anxiety because of this,” John added, “but the moment I found out that Cody was safe, it just dropped away. It was a sense of pure relief.”
John filed a federal petition asking for his son’s immediate return to Northern Ireland. John also requested a temporary protective order — which could be terminated between 30 and 90 days — so Jackie couldn’t cause further damage.
Less than three weeks after John found his family, on May 8, Jackie died of a massive heart attack.
After Jackie died, U.S. District Court Judge James D. Peterson issued a temporary restraining order barring the Tennessee Department of Children Services from transferring or removing Cody from their custody.
As a result, John hasn’t been allowed to contact his son.
“When I heard the news, I just wanted to be with my son,” Hopkins said, but “child protective services says it’s a legal matter and needs to go through court first. I’m not allowed any contact whatsoever.”
There is an online petition in place to show the court how much Northern Ireland cares about Cody.
“He lived here for seven years and he has loads of friends around here,” John added. “We want him to come back to his life here.”