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US millionairess wins tug-of-love over Scots kids; BATTLE: DAD LOSES FIGHT TO BLOCK US MOVE.

A MULTI-MILLION dollar heiress has won a tug-of-love to take her three young children to the USA.

The move was approved by a judge despite strong opposition from the father who wanted them to remain in Scotland.

Rhoda Roxanna Sofia de Francia McGuire persuaded Lord Kingarth that she wanted to be near her frail, widowed mother who holds a pounds 10million stake in a family real estate business.

She stands to inherit the cash when her 79-year-old mother dies and she takes over the reins.

But the judge, who admitted the decision would be a devastating blow to the father - Edinburgh accountant Robert Maclaren, 52 - agreed to the move only after having a private chat with the children Amelia, 12, Hector, 10, and Esme, eight.

Their mother married blacksmith Stewart McGuire in April.

Now Rhoda, her husband and children are preparing to move to a radically different life in Arizona.

Last night, she spoke of her relief that the long legal battle over the future of her three children had at last been settled.

The sun-tanned 43-year-old rents a large house near the Ross-shire village of Strathpeffer.

She and husband Stewart breed horses at the Heights of Achterneed overlooking their home.

Rhoda said: "I have not seen the court's decision in full, but I have been told I have been successful and obviously I am pleased.

"It has been a long drawn-out affair.

"My ex-husband and I could not reach an agreement, so we asked the courts to decide.

"We lease the house here and it is on the market so we will be moving to the US as soon as possible."

Rhoda's three children will soon be saying goodbye to their friends at Fodderty Primary School only half a mile from their home.

Rhoda and Stewart, who shoes and treats horses' hooves, were married on April 14 at Dingwall Register office.

Stewart comes from Ayr-shire and the couple met through their love for horses. He said he did not wanting to comment about the court decision "for the sake of the kids".

American citizen Rhoda and Robert Maclaren were divorced in 1996 and as part of the settlement she paid him pounds 300,000.

The couple amicably agreed he should have regular access to their children, at his Edinburgh home.

But that resulted in them having to make the 346-mile round trip from their mum's farm.

Before Rhoda and her husband could begin their new life in America, she had to go to the Court of Session to ask the judge to approve her taking the children.

She told Lord Kingarth her father had died recently and she wanted to be near her increasingly frail and forgetful mother.

She had recently taken a greater interest in the family business in the US and had been offered the post of regional asset manager for the Arizona operation with a pounds 40,000-a-year salary.

Rhoda and Stewart had also bought 117 acres of land in Arizona where they intended to breed horses.

She agreed that if given the go-ahead the children could stay with their father for nine weeks a year in Scotland.

But he didn't want her to go and believed her plans were "essentially borne of whim and were ill thought out."

Lord Kingarth agreed that in the long-term Rhoda and her husband would be better off in America and they had good reason to make the move.

Yesterday Mr Maclaren said: "I'm bitter and disappointed about the judge's decision which naturally I think was the wrong one.

"I honestly believe it is in their best interests to remain in this country.

"They are Scottish after all but it seems that fathers hardly ever win custody battles."

He said the access he had been granted was the best he could have expected.
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Author:Mcilwraith, Gordon
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 7, 2000
Words:633
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